Skip to content

Olkola lead the way for their Totem

Allana Brown (Ecologist)
Published 10 Jul 2018 by Allana Brown (Ecologist)

I was fortunate to spend time last week up on beautiful Olkola Country in Cape York (about a seven-hour drive north of Cairns) to be part of a very exciting national recovery team meeting for Alwal, the Golden-shouldered Parrot.

Joining me were many other equally passionate and dedicated people – Olkola Traditional Custodians, Olkola Rangers, representatives from neighbouring Traditional Custodian groups, pastoralists, researchers and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

This meeting was significant for a couple of reasons; firstly, Olkola Elder Mike Ross is the Chair making it the first Aboriginal-led threatened species national recovery team in Australia; and secondly, it was the first time in 15 years that an official recovery team meeting had taken place for this beautiful and culturally significant little bird.

When the plan is finalised later this year Alwal will have coordinated, best practice management actions in place for its recovery with all stakeholders on board. Having Mike lead the team – or the ‘Barefoot Chairman’ as he’s affectionately known for his love of having the earth under his feet when on Country – is a huge win for Alwal.

The parrot is the totem of the Olkola people, and I have absolutely no doubt that they will be the ones to bring it off the endangered list – it’s going to take time, and investment, but I have every faith that they'll do it.

The amazing Sue Shephard, a neighbouring pastoralist who has been a passionate parrot conservationist for more than three decades, and Dr Gay Crowley, who did the first research on Alwal with Prof Stephen Garnett in the 1990s, are both part of the recharged recovery team.

Mike, Sue and Gay, along with Olkola rangers Ashley and Joseph, took us for a tour to some fantastic nest sites, and to show where storm burning has effectively reduced woody thickening.

Butcher Birds are one of Alwal’s biggest threats, so if trees invade the open grasslands where Alwal nests (in conical termite mounds) the butcher birds can prey on the parrot nestlings and adults much more easily. It was also very special for recovery team members to be taken to a scared freshwater spring site, the Storyplace of Alwal and a very significant cultural site for Olkola.

Back at our base at Elgoy (Dixie Station) there was time for lots of cups of hot tea and yarns. Thanks to our wonderful Bush Heritage volunteers Mick and Kerry, there was even camp oven roast leg of lamb and two different puddings! I don’t think a team has ever had more delicious food to keep them going.

It’s just the beginning for this newly established Alwal National Recovery Team and we have a long road ahead of us to secure the future of Alwal. But with Olkola Traditional Custodians leading the way, looking after their Totem and their Country, the future looks brighter than it’s ever been for this little parrot.

Alwal National Recovery Team Members on Country last week. Alwal National Recovery Team Members on Country last week.
Photo by Brian Cassey
Having a laugh with the Barefoot Chairman; me and Mike Ross on country last week for the National Recovery Team meeting for Alwal. Having a laugh with the Barefoot Chairman; me and Mike Ross on country last week for the National Recovery Team meeting for Alwal.
Photo by Brian Cassey

Related stories

BLOG 06/04/2021

Finding Alwal’s sweet spot

A new research project on Olkola country funded by the Paul Hackett Memorial Scholarship will shed light on the nesting habits of the Golden-shouldered Parrot.

Read More
Golden-shouldered Parrot. Photo Geoffrey Jones.

BUSHTRACKS 21/01/2021

The Olkola way

Olkola Elder Mike Ross is a Bush Hero whose visionary leadership has had a profound impact on Olkola country and people.

Read More

BLOG 09/08/2019

Dingo protects endangered Alwal

The Olkola People of Cape York believe one of their totems may be a secret weapon in protecting another. Since 2014 Dingo baiting has been stopped and the boss totem of Olkola Country is making a comeback.

Read More

BLOG 06/08/2019

Felixers: a tool to help save Alwal?

Olkola and Bush Heritage may have a new tool in our battle to protect the endangered Golden-shouldered Parrot (Alwal) from feral cats.

Read More

BLOG 30/07/2019

An ecological murder mystery

Ecologist Allana Brown considers the mysterious story of five dismembered, fluffy tails. Who did they belong to? How did they lose them? Who were the innocent victims? Who dunnit?!

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 10/09/2018

Olkola at the helm

The re-formed Golden-shouldered Parrot National Recovery Team, led by Olkola Elder Mike Ross, is providing fresh hope and optimism for the bird’s future.

Read More

BLOG 24/07/2018

Our volunteering experience with Olkola

Mick and Kerry Moylan are long-time volunteers with Bush Heritage and their contribution can't be overstated! Here they share their experience of volunteering in Cape York for the recent Alwal Recovery Team meeting with our Olkola Aboriginal partners.

Read More

BLOG 10/07/2018

Olkola lead the way for their Totem

I was fortunate to spend time last week up on beautiful Olkola Country in Cape York to be part of a very exciting national recovery team meeting for Alwal, the Golden-shouldered Parrot.

Read More

BLOG 12/06/2018

That tricksy Felixy

It's well known that cats have a huge and often catastrophic impact on native species and are notoriously difficult to control. The Felixer cat trap might be the solution.

Read More

BLOG 18/12/2017

Alwal’s Christmas dinner

Last week was the last trip for 2017 by Olkola Land Managers and Bush Heritage for the 'Bringing Alwal Home' project, and we gave the Golden Shouldered Parrots (Alwal) their Christmas dinners! The early wet season is a critical time for the survival of juvenile Alwal. Seeds are in short supply as early rains have germinated much of the seed and it's too soon for the young grasses to produce more. We provide supplementary food.

Read More

BLOG 11/05/2017

Alwal breeding

The first surveys for Alwal (Golden-shouldered Parrots) have begun for 2017 and successfully recorded 12 nests. At some of the nests we observed the sympatric grub, Trisyntopa scatophaga, which lives in Alwal nests and helps keep them clean.

Read More

BLOG 13/12/2016

Helping Alwal survive the wet season

Olkola, Bush Heritage, Artemis Station, Black-faced Woodswallows and friends all working together to support young Golden-shouldered Parrots make it through their first wet season.

Read More

BUSHTRACKS 06/12/2016

Bringing home Alwal

A partnership between Bush Heritage Australia and the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation aims to bring the Golden-shouldered Parrot back from the brink.

Read More

BLOG 29/11/2016

Alwal’s first flight

It's not every day you get to see the first flight of a baby bird, especially not an endangered species, nor to capture the moment on camera. But through hours of dedicated survey time Olkola Land Manager Glen Kulka did just that!

Read More

BLOG 06/07/2015

Olkola & the Golden-shouldered Parrot

Hey! Where's the road gone?! The metre high grasses have covered it up again! I've never driven 7 hours just to put in a photo point before (that's 7 hours there and 7 hours back, by the way) but for the Olkola land managers this is just a regular day.

Read More
{{itemsInCart}} Items - {{formatCurrency(grandTotal)}}