Two critically endangered Western Ground Parrots which were transferred to Perth Zoo as part of the recovery program for the species before fires devastated their wild habitat were given a health check today.

The young male and juvenile female parrots were given a veterinary examination in preparation for introductions to Perth Zoo’s specialised aviaries, which are home to another five Western Ground Parrots participating in a trial captive breeding program, a partnership between Perth Zoo and the Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Perth Zoo’s Senior Australian Fauna Keeper, Matt Ricci, said the trial breeding program, which began in 2014, was an important component to try and arrest the decline of the species.

“It is hoped the small population of these rare birds will be successful breeders, acting as a vital safety-net for their species,” Matt Ricci said.

The two new arrivals were recently captured at Cape Arid National Park and transferred to Perth Zoo by Matt Ricci and Parks and Wildlife scientists, led by regional ecologist Sarah Comer.

“The parrots were captured last month just before the national park was evacuated due to bushfires,” Ms Comer said. “There have been two recent fires in the park impacting significantly on the Western Ground Parrot, with the loss of up to 90% of the known occupied habitat.

“At this stage it is unknown how many wild birds may have been lost, but before the fires it was suspected less than 140 individuals remained in the wild.”

Mr Ricci said these recent events made the Zoo population and efforts to breed them even more important than ever before. “They could literally be a lifeline for their species.”

Perth Zoo is committed to Western Ground Parrot conservation, with significant resources being invested to learn more about this secretive ground dwelling parrot.

In May this year a considerable amount of work was undertaken to enhance the Western Ground Parrot avairies in preparation for the 2015 breeding season. This included an improved CCTV system with audio capacity to enable 24 hour monitoring of the birds.

“With little known about this elusive parrot, the addition of audio has provided some fascinating information about how they are communicating. Eventually this may allow researchers to recognise the exclusive male and female calls which could help provide a better idea of the wild populations.”

“This year we also saw a nest building and pairing behaviour and although we’ve still got a long way to go, this certainly provides hope for future breeding success,” said Matt.