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9 May 2013

The critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrot will receive a much-needed ‘wing-up’ with a new free flight aviary to be built at Werribee Open Range Zoo within the next year.  

There are less than 50 Orange-bellied Parrots left in the wild and Zoos Victoria has been at the forefront of breeding this critically endangered bird for the last 20 years.

In the last breeding season 59 birds fledged, a record for the breeding program.

So far the Zoo has released 244 birds back into the wild to help build the dwindling population of one of Australia’s only migrating parrots.

Zoos Victoria’s Director of Wildlife Conservation and Science, Rachel Lowry, said the free-flight aviary will work as a type of pre-release gym to assist parrots chosen for release into the wild.

“Breeding programs are more complex than just breeding animals. You need to make sure they also have the right skills and behaviours so they have the very best chance of survival in the wild,” Ms Lowry said.

“Every Orange-bellied Parrot that hatches is precious and has a huge responsibility for the survival of their species. We have a duty to make sure every parrot we release is fit for the wild.”

The aviary is projected to cost $285,000 and will provide Orange-bellied Parrots with the opportunity to gain physical fitness, flight and foraging skills and social experiences to maximise their chances of survival in the wild. The aviary will supplement breeding facilities that are already at capacity at Healesville Sanctuary.

Once built, visitors to Werribee Open Range Zoo will be able to view the physical fitness regime of the parrots via a unique viewing hide.

Zoos Victoria is currently looking for major donors to assist with the building of the Orange-bellied Parrot gym. Construction on the project is expected to commence in the second half of 2013.