aussie lorikeets join unwanted list

15 jul 1999
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Conservation Minister Nick Smith today announced the classification of Australian rainbow lorikeets as an 'unwanted organism' under the Biosecurity Act, and the approval of the Department of Conservation's plan for rainbow lorikeet capture.

"Lorikeets are an unwelcome Aussie pest and pose a serious threat to native birds like the tui, bellbird, stitchbird, parakeet and kaka. Significant crop damage in Australia shows that the birds also pose an economic threat to orchardists."

There are an estimated 200 rainbow lorikeets flying wild in the Auckland area following the deliberate releases by a North Shore resident over the last decade. The lorikeet capture plan has been developed by the Department of Conservation, in collaboration with the Auckland Regional Council and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. The Department will attempt to recapture as many birds as possible using established techniques. The recaptured birds will be made available to commercial aviculturists contracted by the Department to find secure homes for the birds.

"Public support for the development of this plan has been overwhelming. New Zealanders understand the serious threat that the rainbow lorikeet poses to our native species. Even breeders, and those who keep them as caged birds, accept that they have no place in the wild. I am particularly concerned about the possibility that lorikeets could reach the sensitive offshore islands that are important sanctuaries for our threatened species."

A special exemption has been granted to enable responsible owners to continue to keep lorikeets as caged birds. Stronger penalties now exist for those who do not keep the birds in secure aviaries or who release them into the wild. The rainbow lorikeet are also to be added to the Fifth Schedule of the Wildlife Act 1953, joining species like magpies and ferrets as not protected.

"Introduced species like possums, rabbits, stoats and ferrets have proved to be an environmental disaster. Lorikeets have the potential to be equally destructive. If Aucklanders are to hear the morning song of the tui in the future, we must take action now to control the lorikeets." ENDS

For further information please contact: Rachel Dahlberg, Press Secretary, (04)471 9132 or (025)230 8037 Ian Bradley, Department of Conservation, (09)307 9279