Last week the Tasmanian government announced a stay of execution on the logging of 10,000 hectares of the Southern Forests of Tasmania, while at the same time, 58,000 hectares more is targeted for logging. This is one step forward and five steps back by the Gutwein government on the urgent road to saving Tasmania’s rare and endangered species from extinction, according to the Bob Brown Foundation.
One species that relies on the Southern Forests for their survival is the Critically Endangered Swift Parrot. There are thought to be less than 2000 birds in total left in the wild. The parrots breed only in Tasmania, and during the winter fly across Bass Strait to forage in open box-ironbark forests in the south-east Australian mainland.
“Sustainable Timbers Tasmania (SST) has already wrecked a far greater area of vital habitat for Swift Parrots than this small area earmarked to be saved but not protected as national park,” Bob Brown said.
A research study published in 2018 by the Australian National University found that 33% of Tasmanian eucalypt forest used as breeding habitat by Swift Parrots was lost or disturbed between 1997 and 2016. One of the authors of that paper, postdoctoral researcher Dr Dejan Stojanovic, said that logging has played a major role in the decline of the species.
“Logging is by far the main threat in Tasmania and it exacerbates other problems,” he said.
“The other key threat is predation by sugar gliders. We’ve done quite a bit of research that shows there is a relationship between logging and the intensity of sugar glider predation on the parrots – the more logging in the area, the more predation there is.”
“They’re also threatened by fire, agriculture and logging on the mainland, in their winter range. It’s death by a thousand cuts.”
A map of Tasmanian parrot habitat from the 2018 study showing logged areas in red
Dr Stojanovic said that the birds’ Tasmanian habitat constitutes a ‘bottleneck’ because their foraging and breeding requirements are so specific.
“They can only breed in areas where their food trees happen to be in flower in any given year, and that’s down to chance,” he said.
“Most years there’s only a small area where trees are flowering. Once they find the flowers, the next bottleneck is finding enough mature, hollow-bearing trees near the flowers so that they don’t have to commute long distances between their food and their nests. An even smaller area is available for nesting sites near that food.”
Bob Brown said that other critical areas for the parrot, including the Wielangta Forest on the east coast, have been ignored and “face the chop”. The Bob Brown Foundation stated that no map of ‘saved’ areas has been released.
“This agreement is way short of ending the logging and burning of native forests in Tasmania, rapidly eroding habitat which is critical for the survival of species like the Swift Parrot, Tasmanian Devil, Wedge-tailed Eagle and the world’s largest freshwater crayfish,” said Brown.
“The most compelling reason for this loss to Tasmania is so a few investors can flog woodchips to China. It should stop. Our forests will be much more valuable for jobs as well as lifestyle if they are kept vertical in the forest rather than horizontal on a truck.”
“The federal government’s primary responsibility for protecting endangered species’ forest habitats in Tasmania has been met with unmitigated failure,” Brown said.