Evidence of the elusive night parrot in the Diamantina National Park have been revealed to be fraudulent after a damning expert investigation.
The night parrot had been believed to be extinct for over a century until it was supposedly spotted at a western Queensland national park in 2013 by naturalist John Young.
But experts now say Mr Young’s research was fake.
In an extraordinary statement released Friday the Australian Wildlife Conservancy – who employed Mr Young from 2016 to 2018 – said it was retracting all its work on the night parrot in the last couple of years after an investigation showed it was without merit.
AWC said has received the findings of an independent investigation into the veracity of work on the Night Parrot following concerns by experts about Mr Young’s fieldwork.
The panel investigated three main claims in Mr Young’s research – that night parrot nests and eggs had been found at Diamantina National Park in western Queensland, a night parrot feather had been found at Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary (South Australia), and a recording of a night parrot call was downloaded from an acoustic monitor at the same location.
All three claims were found wanting.
The experts concluded that the physical characteristics of the eggs in one nest were not consistent with natural eggs while the eggs in the other two photos were small parrot eggs did not constitute robust evidence of the presence of breeding night parrots.
As for the feather, the panel admitted the one photographed in zebra finch nest at Kalamurina was from a night parrot, however the panel found that the feather the AWC lodged with South Australian Museum was not the same feather photographed in that nest.
Similarly the recorded calls were also fake – they were a playback of publicly available recordings of a Western Australian bird, rather than the actual call of a local bird.
AWC Chief Executive Officer Tim Allard said AWC would retract its published records of the night parrot.
“The methods used in this work were not consistent with AWC’s usual procedures,” Mr Allard said.
AWC is also retracting other records that were obtained by Mr Young with similar concerns regarding the adequacy of survey and analysis techniques including records of the buff-breasted button-quail.
The hunt goes on for sightings of the night parrot.
First recorded in 1845, the last living specimen was collected in Western Australia in 1912.
Though some dead birds had been found, it wasn’t until 2013 that Mr Young claimed to have captured several photos and a few seconds of video footage of a live bird in western Queensland, though the exact location was kept a secret.
Bush Heritage Australia turned Pullen Pullen, south of Winton into a night parrot reserve after supposed sightings in 2017.