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SA rare bird's population nosedives

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The state’s first aerial survey of protected Cape Barron geese in 20 years has found the rare bird’s population has plunged by an estimated 30 per cent.

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The Environment and Water Department today revealed the results of the an aerial survey conducted in February.

Results of the survey, involving about 35 hours flight time over two weeks across the lower Eyre Peninsula, Lower Lakes and Kangaroo Island, led the department to conclude that the size and distribution of the state’s Cape Barron geese “appears to have significantly decreased”.

Following the aerial survey, the total goose population has been estimated at 7852 birds, a decline of about 30 per cent compared to the last estimate of 11,272 birds in 2001,” said wildlife management principal ecologist Dr Karl Hillyard.

Although it does appear that South Australia’s population of Cape Barren geese has decreased over the past 20 years, it is still much higher than the estimated population of just 500 birds in the 1950s, which led to their listing as a protected species.

Changes in agricultural practices are thought to have played a significant role in the reduced numbers over the past 20 years.”

Hillyard said land irrigated for grazing dairy cattle around the Lower Lakes had historically been favoured feeding grounds for geese.

“However, with the decline of dairying in that area, there has been a significant decrease of irrigated pasture which may account for fewer geese observed in this area than 20 years ago,” he said.

“It is also unclear how the Kangaroo Island bushfires have impacted the species overall, with numbers slightly increasing on the island.

“Seventy per cent of the Kangaroo Island goose population was counted on the east end of the island. However, small numbers of geese were still present in burnt areas on the west end at Kelly Hill Conservation Park and Rocky River in Flinders Chase National Park.”

The department will conduct another statewide aerial survey next February, along with a ground survey of breeding islands in June.

“DEW pays particular attention to this species given its conservation rating and potential to impact on agriculture. Landholders impacted by geese are encouraged to call their local NPWS office for advice on management of the species and their impacts,” Hillyard.

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