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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rainbow Lorikeet 3: Ilsa’s correspondence with Marion Massam

Rainbow Lorikeet 3: Ilsa’s correspondence with Marion Massam

Alerted by Jeremy Lee about the CITES listing of the Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus), Ilsa Sharp wrote:

“Thanks Jeremy - that's an interesting point, about the CITES listing, and I will follow it up for more information. This is an example of how not all invasive or pest birds are necessarily alien species - it is possible for nature to get so out of synch that even indigenous birds become pests, or develop population imbalances etc. It is at this point that human beings have to decide, reluctantly, whether or not to 'manage' or even 'cull' such pest native species.

“The Rainbow Lorikeet is native in northern/eastern Australia (also in Indonesia and New Guinea) but alien in western Australia. However, in both locations, regardless of its native status, it is capable of being a serious pest to fruit orchards and other agribusiness ventures. So whether or not it is on CITES, I guess it could also become a pest, in purely local contexts anyway. Just goes to show how complex the whole alien species thing is. The problem for Singapore's Botanic Gardens, if they are still there, could well be destruction of fruit and flower displays etc, and also these parrots will almost certainly be aggressive to native birds. Perhaps the CITES listing refers more to the lorikeet's status in its native Indonesia/New Guinea? As said, I will check.”

And check, Ilsa did. She wrote to Marion Massam, a pest specialist in the Western Australia Department of Agriculture, about pest birds and suchlike, and told her how she had seen (eastern Australian) Rainbow Lorikeets in the Singapore Botanic Gardens etc.

Marion's advice is that these birds are difficult to eradicate and recommends shooting them as soon as possible. But the problem, according to Ilsa, is they are pretty, “...so any such shooting probably best done out of sight of the public - but is this possible in so public a place as the Gardens, and in so densely populated a place as Singapore?”

Ilsa further wrote: “Yes, Marion, as an occasional birdwatcher over 'the other side' for many years (I lived and worked in Singapore from 1968-1998), I have long been an observer of the autumn (northern hemisphere autumn) migratory routes from Siberia down through SE Asia to Australia, and out to New Zealand - the north-coast Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve has always been a good observation post for this phenomenon in Singapore.

“But the 'hitchhiker' traffic is two-way - at least a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets are established now at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and I have seen another small flock elsewhere in Singapore too, just for example, not to mention Sulphur-crested Cockatoos on the southern-coast offshore island of Sentosa in Singapore!"

Marion's reply: "Thanks Ilsa - we actually get hitchhiker birds directly from Asia on a very regular basis, so raising awareness of this in that part of the world can only be a good thing."

The two earlier postings on this bird are at 1 and 2.

Thanks are due to Ilsa Sharp, Jeremy Lee and Marion Massam for their contributions. Image of Rainbow Lorikeets at the Eng Neo area by YC.

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1 Comments:

At 6:08 pm, Blogger Lorikeet Organisation said...

Dr Hicks, the Chief Technical Officer the Department of Conservation has recently gazetted the Rainbow Lorikeet as an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act 1993, in the belief that they “are capable or potentially capable of causing unwanted harm to indigenous flora and fauna”.

He did not give as a reason harm to human beings by disease, or harm to the agricultural or horticultural industries of New Zealand, but harm only to indigenous flora and fauna. Dr Hicks presumably formed his belief from claims provided by the Department of Conservation, such as those publicised in the “Rainbow Lorikeet Fact Sheet”.

Evidence in the accompanying commentary on this Fact Sheet shows that these claims are either exaggerated or incorrect. The evidence also shows that Rainbow Lorikeets pose no threat to birds or humans by disease, that they are anatomically not adapted to live and breed in the NZ bush and thereby pose no threat to native birds by competition for food or nest sites. The evidence also shows that Rainbow Lorikeets pose no threat to the horticultural industry of New Zealand.

I have asked the Minister of Conservation to correct the misinformation already broadcast about Rainbow Lorikeets. I have also asked him to withdraw the inappropriate classification of the Rainbow Lorikeet as an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act, for the reason that the evidence provided to the Chief Technical Officer is incorrect.

The Department of Conservation has previously used the perfectly adequate provisions of the Wildlife Act to control vertebrate pests such as Rats, Stoats, and Opossums. The accompanying research suggests the Rainbow Lorikeet is harmless, yet its classification as an unwanted organism under the Biosecurity Act has elevated it to a peak of undeserved infamy in comparison to those pests.

The Biosecurity Act has drawn together a large number of laws relating to diseases and pests which threaten the health and economic welfare of New Zealand. Those laws under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture have been used as a successful shield against such menaces as foot and mouth disease, anthrax, and serious pests and diseases of livestock and crops. The evidence shows plainly that the Rainbow Lorikeet does not fall into this category. By invoking the Biosecurity Act for this non-event, the Department of Conservation has trivialised a law designed for infinitely more dangerous threats.

I submit that you should ask your Department to review the evidence in the enclosed Commentary. When you are satisfied that the research is correct, I trust you will urge the Minister of Conservation to view the matter in a sensible perspective and withdraw this notice against the Rainbow Lorikeet. I also hope you will urge the Minister of Conservation to reserve the use of the Biosecurity Act for a more proper purpose in the future.

Yours sincerely

 

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