Renowned for their elaborate courtship dance, brolgas are a rare and stunning sight in south-western Victoria.
Just how rare, though, has become a well-kept secret.
A landmark university study that tracked the birds over a three-year period to 2012 – partially funded by the wind energy industry – remains under wraps.
Unlike their northern cousins that populate the Top End, Victorian brolgas are listed as a threatened species because many of the wetlands which form their habitat were badly affected by the drought or have been integrated into the surrounding grazing land.
Now concerns are mounting among the bird’s advocates that wind farm developments may also be playing a part in keeping the brolgas away.
The Brolga Recovery Group, formed to help protect the brolgas’ habitat from natural predators and human destruction, has formally written to the Napthine government seeking a moratorium on wind farm applications until planning guidelines are amended to incorporate the latest brolga data and a US study on wind farms and cranes.
“I just want the facts to be known so we’re not acting blindfolded,” said the group’s president, Susan Dennis.
“It’s very special to have a wetland that brolgas are breeding on.”
The group believes brolga numbers in the area have dropped from about 1500 birds in the 1990s to around 450. In 2011 plans for a 46-turbine wind farm had to be abandoned due to the potential impact on the Victorian brolgas.
The survey, conducted between 2009-12 by Federation University (formerly known as the University of Ballarat) PhD student Inka Veltheim, was supported by wind farm developers and the Commonwealth and Victorian environment departments on the basis that the information would become publicly available on the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas. The data has been held by the department since at least February, when The Australian was told that work was underway to make it publicly available.
A department spokeswoman yesterday declined to comment on when that might happen, referring The Australian to a Federation University spokesman, who said only that Ms Veltheim’s PhD was not yet finished.
Originally published as Brolga lovers led a merry dance.
Originally published as Wind farms blow away brolgas
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