Home' The Chronicle : Canberra Chronicle 10-11-15 Contents COCKATOO STUDY
Bird passion inspires
decades of research
Kimberley Le Lievre
Dr Peter Mawson (Perth Zoo), Rick Dawson (WA Department of Parks and Wildlife) and
Denis Saunders beside a tree with an artificial hollow attached to it as a space for the
endangered Carnaby's cockatoo females to lay eggs.
Photo courtesy Rick Dawson
For almost 50 years, passionate researcher Denis
Saunders has been studying a specific species of
bird in one of the longest-running research
projects, he believes, in the world.
"I ve been doing this all my [working] life,"
the now-retired Mr Saunders said of his research
on the endangered Carnaby s cockatoo.
"It s unusual in Australia and internationally
to have these very long-running programs where
you have something running for more than 40
years," Mr Saunders said.
His passion for the species began when he was
employed by CSIRO in 1968, based in Western
His first project was to study the bird. At the
time, Carnaby s cockatoo, found only in specific
parts of WA, was so rife it had a "bounty on its
bill", as Mr Saunders described it.
"It was classified as vermin," Mr Saunders
"We were appointed to look at their ecology
and ways of controlling them."
But land clearing led to loss of habitat and
breeding grounds for the cockatoo and by the
1980s it was on the world endangered species
list.Up until 1996, Mr Saunders continued to
research the bird for CSIRO until he moved to
Canberra to retire. However in 2009 he was
enlisted by the WA department of Parks and
Conservation to continue the research.
Now, 47 years on, Mr Saunders returns to the
WA bush from Canberra twice a year to continue
the long-running research.
While he gets reimbursed for his airfare and
accommodation, the work he does is as a
"They re an interesting species, they re very
closely related to the yellow-tailed black
cockatoo," he said.
"They have a very strong bond between male
and female, they will mate for the life of the
partner so that relationship could last 30 to 40
Last week, Mr Saunders flew back to Perth for
the second time this year to study the birds
during breeding season.
In the last few years, he has developed an
artificial breeding hutch which attaches to a tree
to provide a space for the female to lay her eggs.
"We think the hollows may be a limiting
factor . . . natural hollows are decreasing in the
Between 2009 and last year, an enormous
increase in breeding attempts was recorded from
41 to 101.
Mr Saunders says, while he enjoys the
research, it isn t for idle amusement.
"We ve produced 12 scientific papers in
national and international journals since 2009."
LUCK OF THE DRAW
Retired couple win $1m in Lotto
A retired Canberra couple went about their usual
routine for four days last week, completely
unaware they had won seven figures from the
Saturday Lotto $20 Million Superdraw.
It wasn t until they checked their 36-game
QuickPick entry that they realised their lives
were about to change.
I had no idea that our Superdraw entry had
won a first division share, the husband said.
I went into the newsagency to check my
ticket hoping that I might win $20 or $30 -- I
wasn t expecting to win $1 million! I m
speechless. I ll admit I m a little overwhelmed
He called his luck incredible and doesn t
yet know what they will do with the cash but he
is sure their kids will be happy.
The lucky ticket was bought at Erindale
shopping centre in Wanniassa, and was the only
winning entry for the ACT.
11 - Tuesday, November 10, 2015
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