Coxen's Fig-parrot Cyclopsitta diophthalma coxeni Recovery Plan 2001-2005

Coxen's Fig-Parrot Recovery Team
© The State of Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, 2001

8. Taxon's Ability to Recover

The decline of Coxen's fig-parrot since European settlement has undoubtedly been accelerated by human-induced causes. Available information is inadequate to predict the subspecies' ability to recover. However, indications from certain other parrot species are that recovery will take some time, even after threatening processes are removed or mitigated (J. Martindale pers. comm.).

In the absence of significant population recoveries in the wild within reasonable timeframes, captive breeding has been shown to be an effective way of increasing populations of other critically endangered bird species, both in Australia and overseas. Captive breeding was used with exceptional success in the recovery of the Lord Howe woodhen Gallirallus sylvestris (Miller and Mullette 1985). Currently in Australia it forms part of the recovery strategy for the helmeted honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops cassidix (Smales et al. 1995), regent honeyeater Xanthomyza phrygia (Menkhorst et al. 1998) and orange-bellied parrot Neophema chrysogaster (Rounsevell 1996). The need for captive breeding of Coxen's fig-parrot has been identified in both the subspecies' Recovery Outline (Garnett and Crowley 2000) and the previous recovery plan (Davidson 1993).

Other recovery actions to conserve and enhance habitat and re-establish corridors will by necessity take time. Consequently, any release of captive-bred C. d. coxeni can only be considered in the long term. The main short-term aim of establishing a founder group in captivity would be to reduce the risk of extinction of the subspecies in the wild before all processes threatening the bird can be identified and removed.

Captive breeding and release of Coxen's fig-parrot is not possible until wild birds are obtained to provide the parental stock, probably in the form of eggs or chicks removed from a nest. More opportunistic sources of stock may be injured birds found by the public or abandoned chicks found at fallen or flooded nests. Nevertheless, captive husbandry techniques and protocols have been developed since 1987 in Queensland at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the closely related taxon C. d. macleayana in case the opportunity to house Coxen's fig-parrot in captivity arises (Romer and Spittall 1994). Further development of, and agreement on, these protocols is required before considering their implementation.

Joseph (1988) has suggested that captive breeding may warrant being given a higher priority than conserving existing habitat or populations of Coxen's fig-parrot. Resolving these priorities and deciding on an appropriate time for active intervention are important responsibilities of the recovery team and will be undertaken in full consultation with relevant scientific and ethics committees, as well as acknowledged experts in the avicultural and general communities.