Orange-bellied parrots are among the world's most critically endangered birds, with fewer than 50 individuals still in existence in the forests of Australia. Although conservationists have been working tirelessly to boost their numbers through captive breeding programs, their progress was hindered recently by the taboo wanderings of one very naughty kitty.
According to wildlife officials, the unauthorized feline managed to breach the premises of a secured breeding center in Tasmania last month. Once inside, the bad cat then actually entered the parrots' enclosure through a small hole and began to terrorize the extremely rare birds.
In the resulting panic, two parrots died -- no small number considering just how few of these animals remain.
The bird-killing culprit may have remained a mystery if it weren't for the cat's poor planning. As it turns out, squeezing into the parrot's enclosure was easier than getting out; staff members actually discovered the problem pet two days later, still hiding inside with the birds.
Environment Minister Brian Wightman broke the news to the Australian Parliament yesterday, as reported by The Mercury.
"With a population of perhaps fewer than 50 individuals [in the wild], the species is critically endangered. That is why it is very important we have correct housing for these birds," he said.
Interestingly, this isn't the first time Orange-bellied parrots have had problems with cats. In fact, one of the main contributing factors for the species' dramatic decline is from the introduction of foreign predators where once they had none -- and sweet little house cats have proven to be among the most devastating killers.
Given estimates that these birds could go extinct within five years, conservationists are taking captive breeding programs very seriously. So far, just over 200 parrots have hatched thanks to these efforts, bolstering hopes for the species' long term survival.