Gang-Gang Cockatoo Now Endangered in Australia Due to Climate Crisis

A male gang-gang cockatoo.
A male gang-gang cockatoo. JJ Harrison / CC BY-SA 3.0

In another example of how the climate crisis is impacting Australian wildlife, the animal emblem of its capital territory will be listed as a threatened species. 

Australia’s Environment Minister Sussan Ley emailed Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti to tell her that the gang-gang cockatoo should be reclassified as “endangered” according to the threatened species list, as Australia’s ABC News reported.  

“Gang-gangs are a much-loved species in Canberra, and so, obviously, we are saddened by the announcement,” Vassarotti told ABC News. “But we do welcome the announcement because what this does, is it provides us with the opportunity to increase focus on the species and it means that we will be able to work with other jurisdictions in terms of understanding what the health of this species is.”

Gang-gang cockatoos are a small cockatoo that lives only in southeastern Australia, according to eBird. They are gray-green in color, but the males have bright red heads and fluffy crests. Their call sounds like a squeaky door hinge. They are especially popular in Australia’s capital of Canberra, where they frequent both suburban backyards and nature reserves, The Guardian reported. 

The bird is just one Australian species whose conservation status had to be reconsidered after the extreme bushfires of 2019 and 2020. Most famously, koalas were listed as an endangered species last month after the bushfires precipitated their decline. Overall, their numbers had fallen by about half between 2001 and 2021. 

Gang-gang cockatoos were also struggling before the bushfires impacted 36 percent of the species’ range. 

“We think that they were declining before the fires already as a result of climate change-related factors,” professor Sarah Legge told ABC News in August 2021. “We’re quite sure that the bird has declined possibly by as much as 69 percent.”

Legge sat on the Threatened Species Scientific Committee that recommended the bird be considered endangered. 

“The 2019 and 2020 wildfires really brought this bird to the attention of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee… but it was in decline even prior to the fires, and the fires sort of made it worse,” she told ABC News this week. 

Scientists think the fires caused the birds’ population to decline a further 21 percent, The Guardian reported. And the rising temperatures and increased fire risk caused by climate change are likely to threaten their habitat in the future as well. Their new status will mean developments that could impact them will need to be considered by the government. 

“With climate change only going to make things harder for this cold-climate bird, the government needs to step in and better protect this amazing bird and the native forests that provide essential nesting hollows in old growth trees,” BirdLife’s urban bird project manager Holly Parsons told The Guardian. 

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