Monash scientists rescue endangered birds from fire

Eastern Bristlebird
Eastern Bristlebirds (Dasyornis brachypterus). Credit: David Cook.

In a dramatic rescue operation, Monash scientists together with Zoos Victoria, Parks Victoria, and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) are moving the endangered Eastern Bristlebird to safety as fires continue to threaten important habitats in far East Gippsland region.

Monash conservation biologists, Dr Rohan Clarke and Dr Rowan Mott on Monday were part of the crew that boarded a military helicopter to fire-ravaged East Gippsland in search of the elusive Eastern Bristlebird.

There are only around 160 Eastern Bristlebirds (Dasyornis brachypterus) left in Victoria with just two further isolated populations to the north.

“Our aim is to recover 20 of them,” said Dr Clarke, who is catching the birds.

“We are doing very well, so far we have recovered nine,” he said.

“This is one of the rare occasions in Australia where we are seeing a rescue operation for threatened fauna ahead of an active fire.”

The first of the captured birds have already been transferred to Zoos Victoria by air where they will be cared for until such time as they can be returned safely to their natural environment.

The Eastern Bristlebird is listed as ‘Endangered’ in Australia. The species is also listed as ‘Endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

At the height of the Mallacoota (a town in East Gippsland) fires in January many bird species were found washed up on the beaches after they were forced to fly out to sea to escape the fires.

The Federal Government has pledged $50 million to help rescue and protect wildlife affected by the bushfire crisis, whilst the Victorian government as allocated $17.5 million to biodiversity conservation actions in the wake of these devastating fires.

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