Gesellschaft für Arterhaltende Vogelzucht e.V. G


The Swift Parrot Project - The Chronology

Already years before a negative trend in the population dynamics of the wild swift parrot 

in Australia has been reported offically, The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classified the swift parrot (Lathamus discolor) as a „critical endangered“ specie in 2015. This indicated that the wild population of swift parrots showes an extremely high risk for extinction in the following 15 years.

As a consequence of this dramatical perspective, the Gesellschaft für Arterhaltende Vogelzucht (GAV) e.V.  started an initiative for preservation of a genetic pool of the wild-type swift parrot population available in captivity.

In addition, the GAV pointed in the public with a press release from Oct. 31 St 2015 to this critcal endangered state of the wild swift parrot population in Australia and adressed a call for support a preservation project to the european community of private breeder of this specie. Thereafter an agreement between the GAV and Simon Bruslund (EAZA Parrot TAG) was made for an official cooperation in an international swift parrot preservation project. Than a program for evaluation and selection of phenotypically wild-type swift parrots appropriate for the preservation project start shortly after.

However, for an appropriate definition and selection of the wild-type phenotype a high standard was needed. The initiator of the GAV-project proposed to asses 67 hides of swift parrots harvested originally from nature and collected from different museum. 64 of these 67 hides fullfilled the criteria and were photographically documented to define an appropriate range of the wild-type phenotype of swift parrots. The most important criteria applied to define the wild-type range were size and colour.

The Museum Victoria (Australia) provided 34 hides. Futher hides were provided by the Naturkundemuseum Stuttgart, Museum of Natural History of Gothenburg, Museum of Natural History of Kopenhagen, Museum of Natural History of Wiesbaden, Museum of Natural History of Vienna, Museum of Natural History of Brussels, Zoological Museum of Berlin, Museum of Natural History of Basel, the Zoological Museum of Frankfurt/M., Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch in Oldenburg, the Staatliche Naturhistorische Museum Braunschweig, Natural History Museum of Exeter and Museum of Natural History of Bristol.

Only swift parrots free of avian Polyomavirus (APV) and avian Circovirus (PBFD) are included in this preservation project. Therefore, all putative candidates of swift parrots from captivity have to be evaluated before by DNA-analysis. An agreement with the Institute for Molecular Diagnostic in Bielefeld (IMDB) was made to conduct this kind of DNA-analysis for an exclusive price payed by GAV for private project members.

In Nov. 11 st. 2016 a further press announcement concerning this swift parrot preservation project was published by GAV.

In July 29 th 2017, the first meeting of 14 project members of the European team for the preservation of wild -type swift parrots in captivity was organized by GAV in Erfurt/Germany. At this meeting the state of the project activities and the situation of the wild swift parrot population in Australia has been reported.

First contacts between this European organization and an Australian Team for Swift Parrot Recovery occured to align the activities in this recovery project. The Australian team

is engaged i. e. in the protection of the natural breeding habitat of the wild swift parrot population in Tasmania. The australian team provides i. e. artifical nesting boxes to compensate the loss of natural nesting locasions in old trees disappeared by excessive wood cutting in the natural habitat. In addition, this artificial nesting boxes are specially constructed to protect the swift parrot squabs against an invasive australian predator, Petaurus breviceps, recently introduced in Tasmania, which kills many squabs in the natural nests.

The European team enganged in maintaining a genetically divers pool of wild-type swift parrots in captivity was organized in 4 working groups off private participants and members of the participating Zoos. The first group was assigned to develop „Best Practice Guidelines“ in breeding, the second group should focus on veterinary aspects in managing this project, the third group was in charge of professional stud book keeping and the fourth group took the task of supervising the complete project.

In addition, a contract version was developed where Non-EAZA project members could assigne mandatory to transfer their swift parrots to the project as a personal gift. This mandatory transfer agreement should make sure that the transfered swift parrots are an integral part of the preservation project not belonging any more to the former owners.

In March 10 th 2018 the second project meeting took place in the Zoo Berlin. Also Chris Mitchell from Drayton Manor Park Stafforshire was under the 16 participants of this meeting. Chris Mitchell presented a proposal for a scientific cooperation with Prof. Richard Presiozi from the Manchester Metropolian University to analyse the genetical relationship of the wild-type swift parrot population in captivity in comparison to the wild population of swift parrots in Australia.

An other group of researchers from the University of Birmingham showed some interest in a behaviour survey of a swift parrot population in captivity and in wilderness which appeared to be of importance in case of a future release of swift parrots into the wild.

In addition, Flemming Nielsen from Zoo Kopenhagen reported on his contacts to members of the Australian Government in context to the swift parrot project. However, at this time the Australian Government showed no significant interest in a cooparation with private breeders of swift parrots even not with Australian breeders.

At this meeting, Nils Becker, student of Biology, suggested the possibility for a genetical analysis of relationship between 30 selected swift parrots of the project at the University of Oldenburg.

Furthermore, Simone Haderthauer, Tiergarten Schönbrunn (Vienna), presented the first outcome of a questionnaire concerning the development of Best Practice Guidelines.

Additionally, Jörg Asmus (GAV) gave some instruction to measure and document the size of living swift parrots accurately.

The selection of relevant veterinary pretests mandatory before swift parrots would be able to transfer to the project was a further important item of the meeting in Berlin.

Florian Schäfer, Naturkundemuseum Erfurt, explained the basics of a professional breeding management used officially in many Zoos.

Finally, Jörg Asmus (GAV) presented the terms and conditions for participation of Non-EAZA members on this European project for preservation of a wild-type swift parrot population in captivity.

The recent meeting was held in October 19 th 2019 at the Zoo Schwerin.

Simon Brusland (EAZA TAG; Vogelpark Marlow) announced that the EAZA plans to establish an European Endangered Species Program (EEP) for wild swift parrots, which would offer a complete new approach for future project activities. For example, all EAZA-Zoos breeding swift parrots would be integreted in the EEP automatically as an inherent part of this initiative. All other members of the swift parrots project who aren't organized in EAZA (i. e. all private breeders and some other Zoos) are officially represented by GAV and their breeding stocks will be combined. That means, this group of project members represented by GAV will have the same state in this EEP as every attending EAZA- Zoo. This approach to combine the breeding stocks of swift parrots of the EAZA-Zoos (actually ca. 90 swift parrots) with the united stocks of breeders represented by GAV offers the great chance to enhance the total stock of swift parrots in this EEP significantly to ca. 200 individual swift parrots.

In addition, Sabrina Höft (Zoo Schwerin) put up the recent draft of the Best Practice Guidelines for dicussion. The final version will be send asap to all project members.

Furthermore, Sabrina Höft kindly agreed to  manage the studbook of the total project in the future.

In July 2020, Jörg Asmus and Dr. Franz Stäb agreed to take over in a shared leadership the management of the section of the swift parrot preservation project organized by GAV. The objectives of this new leadership team is to improve the project management and the transfer of information to all project members as well as the public appearance and awareness of this important recovery project.