Saturday, October 07, 2006

Disease in captive endangered parrots mystifies scientists

An orange-bellied parrot

Tasmania's endangered orange-bellied parrot is facing a mysterious threat.

Birds at the Environment Department's breeding centre near Hobart have been quarantined since January, when 46 young birds were killed by the disease.

Months of testing, in Australia and overseas, has not pinned down the cause.
Mark Holdsworth from the Parrot Recovery Program says the wild population does not appear to be affected.

"Wild population appears to be stable and we didn't detect any decline in the nestlings produced," he said.

"But before we can release birds from Taroona into the wild population we need to determine if this potential disease, which we believe may be a type of herpes virus, is in this population.

"It may in fact be that this disease is a native disease to orange-bellied parrots and we've just discovered it through captive breeding."

Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister David Llewellyn says the deaths of the 46 birds earlier this year was a regrettable incident, but it will not have any effect on the overall recovery program.

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