Eight critically endangered birds have been released into the wild after years of research and captive breeding, as part of a program to help save them from extinction.
Four pairs of the ground-dwelling Plains-wanderers were set free in the state’s Northern Plains last week, as part of a trial led by Zoos Victoria, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Parks Victoria, Trust for Nature, Taronga Conservation Society Australia and NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
Each released Plains-wanderer has been fitted with a radio harness transmitter, weighing just 1.8 grams, to help monitor them.
It is estimated that there are fewer than 1000 Plains-wanderers remaining in the wild, although they were once widespread throughout the grasslands of four Australian states.
However, habitat destruction, impacts from grazing and extreme weather events resulted in a dramatic decline of the Plains-wanderer population.
In the past five years, conservationists taking part in the trial caught some of the surviving birds in the wild and have bred 37 chicks from them, including 20 at Werribee Open Range Zoo.
The zoo’s threatened species keeper, Yvette Pauligk, said this “incredible” success led the eight birds being released into the wild last week.
“The hope is that by releasing them into protected and optimal conditions, and with close monitoring and tracking from conservationists, that the Plains-wanderers will be able to thrive, breed and contribute to the restoration of their wild population,” she said.