CITY SLICKER YELLOW TAILED BLACK COCKATOOS DESERVE A PLACE IN THE WILDERNESS

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By Andrew S Gilbert

The recent regular appearance of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos in the suburbs of Melbourne has caused a variety of reactions. Their unmistakeable shrieks, especially at dusk, echo into our urban ears. 

The cockatoos force an upward gaze. Up into the treetops, to the plane less sky beyond. Their reckless tearing at the bark of trees seeking insects and demolition of pinecones for the nuts aren’t always welcome. In the wild, this activity would serve as protection to the trees and propagation of new seedlings.

I see them regularly now in my local wildlife niche, Newport Lakes. Dancing and swooping, noisy larrikins framed against the sunset sky. There is a sense they don’t quite belong here. This is after all the city! A place for people not native wildlife. They belong in the wilderness, in old growth forests with nesting hollows aplenty.

At our monthly Westside Wilderness Society zoom meetings we often start by sharing an encounter with nature. It might be about a raiding ringtail possum with young in pouch or a swarm of bees, a spider’s web or notable back yard nest. Tales of epic bushwalks in National Parks or camping trips near pristine beaches are in short supply at the moment.

The sharing of these encounters sets the tone of our meetings. We try to be positive, to celebrate nature and life. We try not to focus on the loss of big local trees, or developments that leave no room for habitat, produce or living shade. 

The Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos are often featured in these meetings. They are a sight to behold. They are impossible to ignore.

Especially in a gang, skylarking and shrieking in chorus. They demand our attention.

But our meeting must move on to the business at hand. We need to focus on the torturously slow Federal Government response to Graham Samuel‘s mandated ten-year review of the federal Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC). It’s not our favourite topic. 

It seems frightfully obvious that in these times of mass extinctions, climate change fires, storms and floods, and the celebration of the calming and healing powers of nature, that it is necessary to lock in strong Federal Environmental Protection laws to go with the recommendations of the EPBC review. 

That is, to establish a well-funded non-political Federal Environmental Agency that stands up for our natural environment. That seeks to protect what’s left after the unprecedented annihilation of habitat delivered by the 2019/20 fire storms.

We echo each other’s thoughts in our meeting. Frustrated at the Federal Government’s intention to refer these powers to the states so they become a political football at each state election, dishonestly dividing city and country voters.

I hope we also echo the wishes of all those Australians who have reconnected with the pleasures of local nature during the pandemic lockdowns. Of those that believe that our coral reefs, our internationally renowned wetlands, our old growth forests should be protected by coherent federal legislation; that the specific habitats of our unique flora and fauna needs preserving.

It’s great to see our rare Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos at close range in our urban neighbourhoods. However, for me its tinged with sorrow when I consider their lack of habitat and the lack of government will to guarantee their future.

Andrew S Gilbert is a proud member of the Westside Wilderness Group

image: Dan Bursell (myclarencevalley.com)

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