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

10. Recovery Actions

The costs associated with implementing the various actions detailed in this recovery plan are provided in Appendix 2. Parties involved in implementing the actions are indicated in section 11 (Implementation schedule).

10.1 Implement an ecological assessment and monitoring strategy

The current population size, distribution and ecology of Coxen's fig-parrot are poorly known and based largely on supposition. Low impact surveys and, where appropriate, assessment and monitoring of wild populations are required.

10.1.1 Establish survey protocol

All surveys, assessment or monitoring undertaken by government authorities, recovery team members, consultants, other stakeholders and volunteers will, as far as practical, minimise disturbance or disruption to the behaviour of any individuals of any wild populations. These surveys will be in accordance with the Coxen's fig-parrot Survey Protocol. This protocol will be established by the recovery team and will address issues such as confidentiality and credentials of survey participants. The recovery team will maintain a register of all people participating in the survey.

Outcome

A protocol will be developed that minimises interference or disturbance to wild populations of Coxen's fig-parrot resulting from any assessment and monitoring activities undertaken.

10.1.2 Conduct nest site surveys

Nest site surveys will be undertaken intermittently during the non-breeding season (January-July) to identify areas with evidence of recent nesting activity to be targeted during the subsequent breeding season (August-December). These surveys will focus primarily on locations of confirmed records, preferred habitats at localities of recent, credible incidental sightings or localities judged to be potentially important based on knowledge of the bird's distribution. Areas throughout the subspecies' documented and suspected range will be examined. Investigation of the locations of incidental sightings will generate additional information with which to assess records (see 10.1.6) and may yield evidence of nesting in unexpected areas.

Trained and highly experienced personnel will conduct surveys during the non-breeding season. Surveys during the breeding season will be more intensive and, particularly during August and September, will involve searches of the most probable nesting localities. These surveys have advantages, listed in the following outcomes, over the standard survey technique of scanning potential feeding trees or traversing areas of likely habitat in an attempt to observe the birds themselves (e.g. Martindale 1986, Holmes 1990, 1994a, 1995).

Coxen's fig-parrot is thought to nest in the same manner as the red-browed fig-parrot. Training in north Queensland will be undertaken to hone the skills necessary for locating the nest holes of Coxen's fig-parrot. This exercise will enhance observers' abilities in nest recognition, particularly with respect to the height, aspect, positioning and appearance of nest holes, the tree species favoured for nesting and the preferred breeding habitats. In addition, familiarity will be increased with the appearance, flight style, behaviour and calls of the similar red-browed fig-parrot. The training exercise in north Queensland should be conducted by members of the recovery team in October or November so that the experience gained can be passed on to others and applied as soon as possible to ongoing searches for past and current nests of Coxen's fig-parrots.

Dependent upon the success of the Coxen's fig-parrot nest searches, the red-browed fig-parrot nest survey may need to be repeated in other years to provide a refresher course or training for other members of the recovery team. Close co-operation will be required between New South Wales and Queensland authorities to co-ordinate these studies.

Outcome

Nest site surveys and training will:

  • increase the survey skills of participants;
  • indicate the existence of fig-parrots in an area regardless of whether birds are actually present at the time of the search;
  • indicate localities which are currently occupied or have recently been occupied, and suggest localities which have not;
  • indicate likely core areas of a pair's home range, thus providing valuable ecological data; and
  • result in the discovery of an active nest, an essential step in the recovery of the subspecies.

10.1.3 Conduct food tree surveys

Fruiting figs will be monitored at known or suspected Coxen's fig-parrot localities. Individual fig trees that either have a history of Coxen's fig-parrot visitation (traditional food trees) or that have abundant fruit at the time of the survey will be monitored. A program of regular volunteer surveys will be mounted using teams of people, trained and supervised, and deployed at multiple food trees or other observation posts throughout one locality. Ideally, two teams, each of two observers, will be allocated alternately per tree. At some sites, the location and identity of all canopy level figs has been determined previously (Horton 1996). Surveys will have a minimum duration of five days and it is expected that searches will be conducted every year during the life of this plan. Localities will be targeted from both southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales and will include areas in which recent sightings have been made.

Assessment and monitoring programs will be implemented in accordance with this plan at all localities where Coxen's fig-parrots are recorded.

Outcome

The aims of community involvement in future Coxen's fig-parrot surveys are to confirm the presence of birds, to gather details on morphology and calls and to provide vital ecological data. The results may also highlight additional areas to be examined for evidence of nesting activity. Where appropriate, survey outcomes will be published to provide feedback to the community and to encourage further participation in these programs.

10.1.4 Analyse potential predators' prey remains

Prey items discarded by forest-dwelling raptors may be caught by a shade cloth screen (approximately 6m square) suspended above the forest floor beneath a raptor's nest. Forested areas close to past sightings, probable nest sites or core habitat will be targeted in this way.

Regular monitoring of the screens will be undertaken as part of third-year student projects incorporating an investigation of the ecology and dietary preferences of birds of prey. Targeted raptor species will include the brown goshawk Accipiter fasciatus, grey goshawk A. novaehollandiae and collared sparrowhawk A. cirrocephalus.

Outcome

Analysis of prey remains may yield information about the diversity, abundance and seasonality of many prey species taken within an area. These results may indicate the occurrence of fig-parrots at a site regardless of whether birds were actually present at the time of the search.

10.1.5 Use decoy birds

Northern fig-parrot subspecies investigate the source of mimic calls by approaching closely (Hunter in Bourke and Austin 1947, Forshaw 1981). Coxen's fig-parrot may do the same. Caged decoy red-browed fig-parrots will be deployed in the forest canopy in north Queensland to confirm this. If successful, the technique will be adopted at high priority sites for Coxen's fig-parrot during the spring and summer breeding season. The cages will be monitored by remote recording equipment and visited periodically by survey participants. A suitably qualified person must be on site at all times to ensure the well-being of the decoy birds.

Outcome

Wild populations of Coxen's fig-parrot may be located at priority sites.

10.1.6 Operate a formal records appraisal system

The paucity of reported sightings of Coxen's fig-parrots, the potential importance of each sighting for advancing the recovery of the subspecies and the prospect of misidentification by observers, necessitate the adoption of a formal records appraisal process.

A Records Appraisal Committee has been established which consists of six members of the recovery team and people closely affiliated with the team. It has representation from QPWS, NSW NPWS, the Australian Museum and Southern Cross University. Past and current sighting reports (the latter using the existing 'Sighting Report Form' - Appendix 3) will be circulated.

Outcome

The appraisal process will assist field survey work and distribution modeling studies. Operational guidelines for the Records Appraisal Committee will ensure consistency.

10.1.7 Collect ecological data at known Coxen's fig-parrot sites

The habitat at the locations of all Coxen's fig-parrot sightings or nests has not been described fully. Ecological data such as altitude, aspect, disturbance history, forest type and structure, structural dominants, soil type, and presence and abundance of food trees are required. Identification of habitat types and food species used in the cooler months is of special importance for management because of the possible dependence of Coxen's fig-parrot on the now severely depleted lowland forests during a suspected critical winter period (Holmes 1994a, 1995).

Outcome

Characterisation of known Coxen's fig-parrot sites will enhance our knowledge of the bird's habitat requirements and enable improved predictive modeling.

10.1.8 Develop and maintain a records database

A database of all past records of Coxen's fig-parrot will be created including the most recent records, historical sightings and specimen-based records. Regular maintenance and review of the database by the Records Appraisal Committee will ensure it remains current.

Outcome

The database will facilitate the analysis of ecological data, for example highlighting food resources commonly used by the fig-parrots, and will assist in identifying areas for rehabilitation. The database may also reveal over time other high priority areas for survey by identifying geographical, seasonal, altitudinal and/or habitat-associated patterns of the bird's occurrence.

10.1.9 Undertake predictive modeling of distribution

Predictive modeling of the distribution of Coxen's fig-parrot may contribute to recovery by refining current understanding of the subspecies' range and indicating possible field survey targets. The results of a BIOCLIM analysis conducted by the Centre for Research and Environmental Studies at the Australian National University (Holmes 1990) suggested that both the absolute and potential distribution of Coxen's fig-parrot were broader than hitherto documented.

These predictions were subsequently supported by credible sighting reports north and south of the previously recognised distribution limits of the subspecies (Holmes 1994a, 1995, Gynther et al. 1998, I. Gynther pers. comm., J. Young pers. comm.). Further modeling work will be conducted which incorporates all credible recent records and relevant ecological data.

Outcome

Modeling will identify areas on which to focus search effort and to include in revegetation and habitat rehabilitation projects.

10.1.10 Implement an ecological monitoring strategy at occupied sites

The ecology of Coxen's fig-parrot is poorly understood. An ecological monitoring strategy will be developed for immediate implementation in the event that a location is discovered where birds can be found repeatedly, e.g. a feeding site or an active nest site. Techniques to be implemented will include direct observation, non-intrusive photography and call recording. Population counts and registers of activity will be kept, and information on diet, breeding biology and behaviour will be gathered. The data may indicate food resources and habitat that is critical for the bird's survival.

Outcome

Implementation of this strategy will ensure a rapid increase in our knowledge of the bird's ecology that will benefit many other facets of the recovery program.

10.1.11 Clarify taxonomic status

Investigation of the taxonomic status and relationships of Coxen's fig-parrot will be undertaken by an analysis of feather samples collected from the three fig-parrot taxa currently recognised in Australia. Wild caught individuals will be used by preference but should these not be available in the case of C. d. coxeni, museum specimens will be used. The genetic analysis will be conducted at Southern Cross University under a proposal developed by NSW NPWS and QPWS.

Outcome

Confirmation that Coxen's fig-parrot warrants elevation above the subspecies level might influence funding agencies and potential sponsors to provide financial support for research and management, and would significantly raise public awareness and stimulate search efforts by the ornithological community.

10.1.12 Investigate wild red-browed fig-parrots

A field study of the red-browed fig-parrot will be undertaken to examine life history details of direct relevance to Coxen's fig-parrot. The study is to include dietary preference, activity patterns, flock size, movement patterns and communal roosting behaviour, expanding the similar study begun by Holmes (1995). An important aspect will be the identification of species or genera of north Queensland food plants to assist in determining likely important food resources for Coxen's fig-parrot in southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales.

Outcome

Studying the red-browed fig-parrot may assist in understanding the ecology and behaviour of the Coxen's fig-parrot and, in so doing, assist in refining the ongoing search effort.

10.1.13 Conduct remote surveys

Surveys using elevated, remotely-activated equipment such as a sound recorder, video recorder or camera may be a cost and time-effective method of monitoring a probable or confirmed nest site and/or confirmed feeding station. The advantages over ground survey are that previously unseen canopy sectors may be monitored and that the method is low impact.

Outcome

The presence of Coxen's fig-parrot may be confirmed and valuable information on appearance, behavioural traits and reproductive biology gathered.

10.1.14 Conduct a literature search

An international literature search for information on comparable situations of severe and/or unexplained avian decline will be instigated using traditional and contemporary methods such as the Internet and Zoological Record.

Outcome

All relevant information and techniques will be available for consideration. Knowledge gained may have ramifications for the design and implementation of strategies for ecological assessment and monitoring, raising community awareness and enhancing habitat quality and extent.

10.2 Undertake captive breeding and release

Captive breeding can allow natural breeding systems to operate in the absence of an identified threat so that stock may be released to the wild, thereby reducing the chance of extinction of a species. Martindale (1986), Garnett (1992), Davidson (1993) and Holmes (1995) have all advocated that a principal recovery plan objective should be to re-establish Coxen's fig-parrot in parts of its former range from which it has disappeared.

Current best practice for the captive breeding and release of parrots (Snyder et al. 2000) can be divided into four main steps as follows:

  • research and development of approved protocols in advance;
  • adequate practice and field-trialing of techniques on analogue taxa;
  • implementation of the program on the target species following receipt of relevant approvals; and
  • release and assimilation of individuals into the wild, and adoption of termination criteria.

While the latter steps are dependent on locating an active Coxen's fig-parrot nest and may not occur during the life of this Plan, it is important that acquisition, husbandry and release techniques are fully researched, field-trialed using appropriate analogues, approved and funded beforehand. These aspects are discussed further below and are costed in Appendix 2.

Full implementation of a captive breeding program to the point that birds are released into the wild requires detailed justification, careful consideration of the program's cost effectiveness and a clear idea of performance criteria which, if not met, will bring about termination of the program. A summary of these issues is also provided below, but a more complete assessment of current best practice needs to be conducted following a comprehensive literature review.

10.2.1 Develop a Captive Breeding Protocol

A Captive Breeding Protocol for Coxen's fig-parrot will be developed that includes:

a proposal consisting of a literature review of contemporary parrot captive breeding practices and a justification for captive breeding of Coxen's fig-parrot; an action plan that details the initial response, acquisition and transport techniques to be used when obtaining founder stock and which contains all necessary approvals; a husbandry manual that describes emergency hand-rearing and fostering techniques and long term captive management practices, as well as identifying areas for further research; and a release plan that addresses the strategy and methods for assimilating captive-bred birds into the wild.

The protocol will be submitted to relevant authorities for approval prior to commencing any actions involving Coxen's fig-parrot.

Outcome

All available information and techniques have been considered and the most effective adopted. Captive breeding techniques will be detailed in an established Protocol. Relevant approvals for the Protocol will be in place beforehand in the event that any Coxen's fig-parrot eggs or chicks become available opportunistically or a decision is made to acquire birds from the wild.

10.2.2 Conduct analogue trials

10.2.2.1 Refine capture and transport techniques

Specialist techniques are required to acquire eggs and/or chicks for captive breeding. The proposed techniques outlined in the action plan component of the Captive Breeding Protocol (see action 10.2.1) will be field-trialed on analogues, such as red-browed fig-parrots and lorikeets, and refined as necessary. Improvements to procedures will be documented through modification of the protocol. Training in tree climbing and egg/chick handling at the nest will be required, as will clear and simple procedures for transport that minimise risk to the eggs or young and reduce travel time. Necessary equipment must be purchased. Appropriate contact lists must be prepared and relevant approvals held.

Outcome

A response team will be trained and proficient in all acquisition and transport procedures as detailed in the action plan. A kit containing all relevant equipment, contact lists and approvals will be available on permanent standby.

10.2.2.2 Refine husbandry techniques

Husbandry techniques for the related red-browed fig-parrot have undergone extensive development at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary since 1987 (Romer and Spittall 1994). Further research is necessary, particularly with respect to seasonal change in diet, identification and elimination of disease, emergency hand-rearing, cross-fostering and the use of genetic technology to increase reproductive output and diversity of gene pools (Cusack 1997). All procedural refinements which result will be incorporated into the husbandry manual, prepared as a component of the captive breeding protocol (see 10.2.1), so that this document represents the current state of knowledge with regard to maintenance of the analogue population.

Outcome

Prior to a situation arising where Coxen's fig-parrot can be or must be acquired from the wild, there will be established, within the bird's known range, a facility which has the requisite expertise in the captive management of fig-parrots. The husbandry manual will be continually revised to provide up to date and clear guidance for the captive breeding program.

10.2.2.3 Maintain analogue population

The analogue population of red-browed fig-parrots will require ongoing maintenance and husbandry until the results of further research as identified by Cusack (1997) are available for incorporation into the husbandry manual. Adult red-browed fig-parrots may also be needed to act as foster parents should eggs or chicks of Coxen's fig-parrot become available at short notice or when a decision to commence captive breeding is made.

Outcome

Through adherence to procedures in the husbandry manual for both day-to-day and long term captive management, the analogue population of red-browed fig-parrots will be maintained at levels to permit continued research and adequate numbers of foster parents.

10.2.2.4 Release captive-bred analogues

The release of captive-bred Coxen's fig-parrots into the wild is the long-term aim of the captive breeding program. The existence of excess red-browed fig-parrots resulting from the development of husbandry techniques provides an invaluable opportunity to trial release techniques in the field. These include the use of radio transmitters to investigate the success with which birds of captive origin assimilate into wild populations and habitat.

Outcome

Release techniques will have been developed in a timely manner so that the success of any releases of Coxen's fig-parrot in the long term will be greatly increased.

10.2.3 Upgrade facilities for Coxen's fig-parrot

10.2.3.1 Construct aviaries

Commencement of a captive breeding program for Coxen's fig-parrot may necessitate, over time, the construction of additional aviaries to provide adequate disease isolation, space for breeding and sufficient area to allow re-establishment of natural behavioural traits. It may also be advisable to duplicate facilities at other holding institutions as a precautionary measure against disease, theft of birds, fire and other undesirable stochastic events.

Outcome

Adequate infrastructure will be provided in a timely manner as the captive breeding program proceeds to allow smooth expansion of the program and ensure maintenance of the health and normal behaviour of captive-bred birds.

10.2.3.2 Establish security

Red-browed fig-parrots are kept in limited numbers by aviculturists under licence in both New South Wales and Queensland. These birds are difficult to rear and are highly attractive to collectors. They consequently fetch high prices, upwards of $5,000, when traded as adults (J. Hardy, Co-ordinator, NSW NPWS Wildlife Licencing Unit, pers. comm.). Trade in fledglings and eggs is illegal.

As there are no Coxen's fig-parrots held legally under licence in either Australia or overseas, collection from the wild is the only way that this bird could enter into aviculture. Based on the known price of the closely related red-browed subspecies, and given that any individuals would have to be obtained illegally, the potential value of a Coxen's fig-parrot adult could be as high as $30,000 in Australia and higher overseas. The value of eggs is not as great due to the potential for failure in hatching. Nevertheless, it is still likely to be substantial because eggs are far easier to smuggle out of the country.

The potential reward for the illegal collection of birds or eggs from a nest in the wild or from aviary theft means that it is essential that security should be adequate at these sites. Any holding institution involved in the program shall undertake a review of security and implement comprehensive measures necessary to protect the captive birds. These measures will be detailed in the captive breeding protocol (see action 10.2.1).

Outcome

Appropriate security measures will be in place to secure the analogue birds and any Coxen's fig-parrots that may be acquired or bred.

10.2.4 Initiate program for Coxen's fig-parrot

Implementation of a captive breeding program for Coxen's fig-parrot is dependent upon completing the captive breeding protocol (see action 10.2.1), securing adequate funding, obtaining approvals and licences to proceed from state authorities and ethics committees, and locating an active nest from which founder stock can be sourced. Once these conditions are met, the recovery team will consider initiating a program which incorporates the following:

acquisition and transport of founder stock to the holding facility; security of the nest from which founder stock is sourced; ongoing monitoring of the nest; and maintenance of the captive population.

These elements of the program will be discussed in detail in the action plan and husbandry manual which are to form components of the captive breeding protocol.

10.2.4.1 Acquire founder stock

Founder stock will be acquired and transported to the holding facility using techniques and procedures previously practised on appropriate analogues and the equipment kit previously prepared and held by the holding institution (see 10.2.2.1). Trained members of a response team, as nominated in the action plan, will be bound by a confidentiality agreement. All relevant approvals are to be in place, including permission from any relevant private landowners, before founder stock is acquired.

Outcome

Founder stock will be successfully acquired and safely transported to the holding facility with a minimum of administrative or logistical delay.

10.2.4.2 Ensure security of nest

The potential for any nest found in the wild to be disturbed, either unintentionally by members of the public or deliberately as a result of a breach of confidentiality, will need to be carefully assessed. In addition to losses through poaching, undue disturbance can result in nest desertion by the parent birds and negate opportunities for either re-clutching later that season or reusing the nest tree in future breeding seasons. Where security is considered necessary, options for action may include the use trained volunteers, professional security officers, state conservation agency staff or a rostered combination of the above. Breaches of security will be reported to relevant law enforcement agencies.

Outcome

All active Coxen's fig-parrot nest locations will be protected from disturbance for the duration of the current and subsequent breeding seasons.

10.2.4.3 Monitor nest after acquisition of eggs or chicks

The recovery team will recommend to the relevant agency the appointment of a qualified person from a previously prepared shortlist to monitor the nest and the breeding adult pair after eggs or chicks have been removed from the nest chamber for the purposes of captive breeding. Among others, the following questions will be investigated during the monitoring program:

What are the behavioural and reproductive responses of the parent birds to the nest robbing? Do these responses accord with those of red-browed fig-parrots, both in the wild and in aviaries? Is the nest abandoned in favour of another pre-existing one or is a new nest excavated? What is the delay until any re-clutching occurs and what behaviour is involved?

Consideration will also be given to attaching radio transmitters to the parents so that, in addition to gaining information on home range sizes and the possible location of other birds in the general vicinity, the adult pair can be located in the event of nest desertion. These benefits of a radiotelemetry study will be weighed carefully against the potential hindrance to re-clutching at the same nest.

Depending on the nest location, monitoring may be expected to require the researcher to spend considerable periods of time elevated in the canopy. It may also need to be repeated in subsequent breeding seasons if the nest remains active. Where circumstances allow, monitoring efforts may be combined with any security program (see action 10.2.4.2).

Outcome

The impact of egg/chick acquisition on the parent birds will be assessed and information gained on breeding biology and the potential for the nest to be used for future acquisitions.

10.2.4.4 Ensure successful husbandry of captive population

Once founding stock has been acquired and transported to the holding facility, it will be maintained and bred in captivity in accordance with the husbandry manual. This will require annual funding for the duration of the program in accordance with estimates provided by the holding facility and subject to agreement with the relevant state government. The funds will be supplemented by community and commercial sponsorship. The duration of the program will depend upon breeding success rates and assessment of the number of birds needed to found one or more wild population. Details of funding estimates and performance criteria will be provided in the captive breeding protocol (see action 10.2.1).

Outcome

The captive population will be successfully maintained and augmented by the holding institution over an agreed timeframe. Operation of the captive breeding program will be based upon predetermined performance criteria.

10.2.5 Construct facilities for release of captive-bred Coxen's fig-parrots

The release of captive-bred Coxen's fig-parrots back into the wild will not occur during the period covered by this recovery plan. Nevertheless, consideration of the issues involved will be necessary since they are pertinent to obtaining initial approvals to proceed with the captive breeding program. These issues will be addressed in the Captive Breeding Protocol (see 10.2.1) following a review of best practice in relation to successful parrot release programs elsewhere around the world.

The funding required and its timing will be dependent on the success of the captive breeding program in raising birds for release and the success of other elements of the recovery plan in identifying and ameliorating threatening processes in the wild. At the very least, funding will need to be secured for the construction of an in situ holding facility at an appropriate location to allow the birds to become acclimatised to the release site and establish adaptive behavioural traits. The 'soft release' facility would also provide an opportunity to monitor released birds during their assimilation into the wild.

Outcome

A program and facilities for release of Coxen's fig-parrot will be in place by the time captive-bred birds are ready for release and threatening processes in the wild are ameliorated.

10.3 Assess Coxen's fig-parrot habitat

A thorough assessment of the quantity, distribution and spatial arrangement of remnant rainforest and other habitat, and of the distribution, abundance and fruiting schedules of known fig-parrot food species is crucial for the development of an effective revegetation and rehabilitation strategy. A detailed map of fig tree distribution will also establish priority areas for revegetation.

10.3.1 Map the distribution of suitable habitat in the Coxen's fig-parrot's range

Detailed, accurate and up-to-date mapping of the distribution of rainforest and other suitable habitat in south-east Queensland and north-east New South Wales would assist the recovery program for Coxen's fig-parrot, particularly in targeting areas for revegetation or rehabilitation and in identifying potential corridors. Its greatest application would be in the lowlands where the majority of remnant fig-parrot habitat is unprotected.

The entire suspected distribution of Coxen's fig-parrot should be mapped with particular emphasis placed on areas within a 30km radius of recent documented sightings of the bird, remnant figs and rainforests, and those areas which link confirmed Coxen's fig-parrot localities. This mapping will be based initially upon aerial photographic analysis such as that used by NSW NPWS as part of the Comprehensive Regional Assessment. It be will refined by ground-truthing in priority locations, e.g. around known locations of Coxen's fig-parrot, and in areas proposed for habitat rehabilitation and/or the development of wildlife corridors. Remote sensing, such as satellite and/or aerial digital multispectral video imaging, will be trialed and developed to assist in the mapping of actual and potential habitat, particularly fig trees. Other developments in mapping technology should be incorporated as they become available.

Outcome

Mapping will facilitate the development of a revegetation and rehabilitation strategy and will assist with the assessment of sightings. A detailed map of fig tree distribution and density will be produced to establish high priority areas for revegetation projects.

10.3.2 Investigate Coxen's fig-parrot food plants

Coxen's fig-parrot may be threatened by the occurrence of inadequate or discontinuous food resources, possibly on a seasonal basis. The ecology of Coxen's fig-parrot food resources is poorly understood. In particular, factors triggering the fruiting patterns of fig species have been little researched. Furthermore, the role of fig-pollinating wasps in determining the nutritional quality of fig fruit is unknown but may be of critical importance. Previous studies (Storey 1994, Horton 1996) have been of limited time and scope.

A three year university project will be initiated to investigate the distribution and phenology of known and probable food plants of Coxen's fig-parrot. Knowledge of red-browed fig-parrot food plants will be incorporated where relevant.

Outcome

The information gleaned will contribute greatly to our understanding of the ecology of Coxen's fig-parrot and assist in determining suspected threats to the bird's continued survival.

10.4 Protect and enhance Coxen's fig-parrot habitat

Based on information gathered from tasks described under 10.1 and 10.3, a program to protect known habitat, rehabilitate degraded habitat and revegetate former habitat of Coxen's fig-parrot will be undertaken.

10.4.1 Develop management prescriptions and protocols for logging identified Coxen's fig-parrot habitat

Much of the bird's remaining habitat occurs in state forests and, at least in the locations described by Norris (1964), Holmes (1994a, 1995) and J. Young (pers. comm.), logging adjacent to rainforest may have affected the bird's habitat. Probable fig-parrot nests have been observed as early as July in mature flooded gum Eucalyptus grandis near the rainforest edge and in areas with a rainforest understorey (J. Young pers. comm.).

Threatened Species Licence conditions in the NSW Integrated Forestry Operations Approval (IFOA) require SF NSW and NSW NPWS to jointly develop and agree on site-specific conditions for all records in state forest that may be affected by logging operations. Such operations must not commence until these conditions are in place.

Conditions relating to proposed logging near rainforest in state forests north of the Bruxner Highway in NSW are currently being developed but extension of management guidelines to include all probable habitat in state forests within the bird's range is required. Rainforest edge buffers currently approved under the IFOA may require amendment in the vicinity of known fig-parrot habitat. These buffers should be protected from controlled burns during the August-December breeding season.

At lower elevations, such as in the SF NSW Murwillumbah Management Area, CSIRO (1996) concluded that management that allows rainforest to regenerate to subtropical rainforest will maintain or enhance Coxen's fig-parrot numbers. Such practices should be included in general forest management guidelines, but the potential impact on other threatened species which may use the forest ecotone, e.g. eastern bristlebird Dasyornis brachypterus, must be carefully considered. Initial prescriptions will be updated as more ecological data on Coxen's fig-parrot become available.

Outcome

Existing habitat within state forests will be protected.

10.4.2 Regulate land use by state and local authorities

Various regulatory avenues are available to protect and enhance known and probable Coxen's fig-parrot habitat and these can be used in co-operation with extension activities for land managers and private landholders.

Regulatory avenues include:

  • Identification by local government and/or appropriate state agencies of known or probable Coxen's fig-parrot habitat in relevant planning schemes, e.g. State environmental protection policies, strategic plans, development control plans and local or regional environment plans. These schemes include community consultation by way of seminars and public exhibition of documents, and the production of guidelines outlining how the habitat may be managed effectively for conservation.
  • Preparation of property management plans by private landowners or, as a last resort, the issuing of Stop Work Orders by NSW NPWS under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.
  • Creation and implementation of Vegetation Protection Orders or Tree Preservation Orders by local governments to protect identified and possibly isolated food trees that may form essential foraging habitat for Coxen's fig-parrot.
  • Use of appropriate development consent conditions to encourage food tree planting.
  • Restrictions on the clearing of native vegetation.
  • Creation of Interim or Permanent Conservation Orders under relevant legislation.

The above measures can be used in conjunction with voluntary approaches to achieve conservation of important habitats on lands outside existing reserves. Voluntary approaches include the creation of Voluntary Conservation Agreements. For example, in Queensland, security of tenure can be achieved through Nature Refuge agreements under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. Also, covenants with the state, local government or statutory body can be registered to titles of properties to protect environmental values. These covenants are then binding for all successors in title. Property planning extension work including programs such as Land for Wildlife may also offer effective means of ensuring landholders preserve key habitats.

Outcome

Known or probable Coxen's fig-parrot habitat outside conservation reserves will be better protected.

10.4.3 Rehabilitate habitat

Restoration of degraded habitats to form healthy viable ecosystems is the primary objective of rainforest rehabilitation. Restoration includes staged weeding and replanting programs to achieve a self-perpetuating ecosystem that is maintenance free. Liaison with relevant rainforest recovery teams and community groups such as Landcare, Bushcare and Greening Australia is recommended to facilitate selection of methods and species, and to co-ordinate with other rainforest restoration projects.

Spatial continuity and diversity of probable food resources need to be enhanced by expanding the area of suitable habitat and by providing interconnecting habitat corridors, especially along watercourses. Lowland rainforest areas and potential forest links are a priority, especially in localities where Coxen's fig-parrot is currently known or suspected to occur.

Outcome

A major threatening process will be ameliorated by increasing the availability of healthy, viable habitat for Coxen's fig-parrot and other threatened species.

10.4.4 Initiate propagation of food trees

Large scale propagation of known and presumed Coxen's fig-parrot food trees will be initiated. Seed collectives and commercial seed collectors should be contacted to commence collection of the appropriate species. The propagation program should take advantage of established infrastructure as offered by SF NSW, Greening Australia, Landcare, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, shire council nurseries and other contract rainforest tubestock growers.

Coxen's fig-parrot food plant kits will be distributed. These will contain seedlings of known and probable Coxen's fig-parrot food trees including certain fleshy-fruited rainforest trees, the larger fig species (Ficus macrophylla, F. watkinsiana and F. obliqua) and the smaller, fast growing and fast fruiting sandpaper figs (F. opposita, F. fraseri and F. coronata). Other species besides figs should also be considered to get a mix of species across the landscape. The kits should include local species from appropriate genetic stock with the goal of providing a seasonal spread of fruit availability.

The mixed species kits or individual specimens of food trees will be:

  • available for resale from key tourism outlets including NSW NPWS offices, travel information centres, SF NSW sales outlets, ecology and ecotourism centres and other targeted outlets;
  • included in local government 'free trees and shrubs' for ratepayers;
  • planted as street trees (where potential damage to roadways caused by roots can be avoided) and/or in open space and local reserves;
  • incorporated in roadside rehabilitation schemes;
  • incorporated into SF NSW Joint Venture Schemes;
  • included as Greening Australia's stock for Trees on Farms and other private agricultural plantings;
  • available to schools for gardens and school projects; and
  • recommended and supplied as preferred plants for use by Landcare, catchment management and rehabilitation groups.
Outcome

The program will raise community awareness, expand Coxen's fig-parrot habitat and create additional food resources in urban and rural settings.

10.4.5 Contact New South Wales Nurseryman's Association

Negotiations will be made with the New South Wales Nurseryman's Association for production of 'I'm a Coxen's fig-parrot food tree' labels for inclusion on commercial nursery stock and all trees produced under action 10.4.4.

Outcome

Community awareness and bird food resources will be increased through stronger encouragement and promotion of the planting of food trees.

10.5 Implement a community awareness strategy

The support and active participation of the community are crucial to the success of the Coxen's fig-parrot recovery program, with community members being responsible for undertaking many important tasks in the present recovery plan. However, successful implementation of the entire plan necessitates effectively communicating the required actions not just to the general public, but more broadly, to include government agencies, forestry and farming industries, researchers, funding bodies, special interest groups, and other target organisations. A good public education and information program provides a means of involving all participants in the recovery process and is, therefore, a vital component in the overall plan.

The objective of the strategy is to raise community awareness of Coxen's fig-parrot and its plight to the extent that the community 'adopts' Coxen's fig-parrot, develops independent skills to reliably locate, identify and report sightings of the bird and, importantly, becomes proactive in the conservation and rehabilitation of its habitat.

The effectiveness of informal community surveys by an informed public has been demonstrated by the number of highly plausible fig-parrot sightings reported in the greater Bundaberg area following a publicity campaign associated with the community-based survey there in 1998. Informal community surveys exponentially expand survey effort in both spatial and temporal dimensions and have been shown to be very cost-effective.

10.5.1 Develop and maintain a community network

Development of a community network for the conservation of Coxen's fig-parrot and its habitat will be achieved most effectively through existing projects and established conservation groups. A community network may assist with targeted field surveys, reporting incidental sightings and participating in projects to re-establish fig-parrot habitat. Possible network links include Birds Australia's Threatened Bird Network Co-ordinator, the Threatened Species Network, the Endangered Rainforest Plants Recovery Team, Greening Australia, SF NSW Joint Venture Program, bushwalking and birdwatching clubs and Landcare coordinators. Information about the community network will be databased. This network will be developed in accordance with the Community Network Strategy devised by the Threatened Species Network.

Outcome

Increased community awareness and ownership of the recovery of Coxen's fig-parrot will be achieved, thereby promoting greater public participation in the recovery program.

10.5.2 Establish a community participation and publicity campaign

A targeted publicity campaign similar to the Richmond River birdwing butterfly campaign is an efficient method of engaging community participation. A selection of preliminary campaign thrusts include:

  • establishing community response teams composed of experienced ornithologists who can respond immediately to reports of opportunistic sightings;
  • utilisation of existing networks to enlist volunteers for surveys and rehabilitation works;
  • an identification incentive in the form of a sponsored reward for a confirmed record of Coxen's fig-parrot;
  • inclusion of a publicity strategy for Coxen's fig-parrot as an assignment at local universities;
  • preparation of publicity material such as T-shirts, posters, traveling display boards (for shopping centres etc.), food-plant kits, brochures, and fridge magnets for resale;
  • production of flyers for inclusion with local government rates notices;
  • working with local government to promote and develop 'plant figs in public places' schemes;
  • offering incentives to schools to conduct projects and artwork in relation to Coxen's fig-parrot;
  • conducting media interviews about Coxen's fig-parrot and requesting volunteers for surveys and rehabilitation works;
  • placement of regular articles in popular magazines and daily media;
  • production of a regular newsletter for circulation to the community network and more widely; and
  • production of a video on research/survey to date for screening at seminars and public talks.
Outcome

The campaign will raise community awareness and lead to increased opportunities for wild populations of Coxen's fig-parrot to be located. A coincidental reduction in opportunities to deal illegally in Coxen's fig-parrot will result.

10.6 Manage the recovery process

10.6.1 Co-ordinate the recovery program

A part-time co-ordinator will oversee implementation of all aspects of this plan, including liaison with appropriate government agencies, non-government organisations, the forest industry, farming organisations, academic institutions, natural history clubs and societies, Landcare and catchment management groups, and the general public. The co-ordinator will carry out many of the actions in this plan and facilitate the implementation of others. The person will, therefore, not only be responsible for overall co-ordination of the recovery process, but will play a critical role in implementing those actions most directly associated with the core strategies of this plan, namely the shaping of community-based programs to help conserve the Coxen's fig-parrot and the co-ordination of public education. The co-ordinator will report directly to the recovery team.

Meetings of the recovery team will be held at least annually, and more frequently if required. The team, in conjunction with the part-time co-ordinator, will review the progress of the recovery program on an ongoing basis.

Outcome

Recovery actions will be well co-ordinated and targeted, thereby maximising their effectiveness.