Members of APS-Wilson Park Berwick knew that the Helmeted Honeyeater was described from a specimen collected at Bass River, Westernport, more than 150 years ago.
In 2014 we approached Bob Anderson OAM, long term President of the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater (He Ho’s), based at Yellingbo, with a request to speak to our group at Wilson Botanic Park. Bob understood that, since settlement, He Ho’s had lived on the Cardinia Creek until the last confirmed sighting just prior to the devastating Ash Wednesday fires.
The Yellingbo reserve is home to the only established wild population and it was vital that other populations become established. Bob suggested we should endeavour to have a trial reintroduction along the Cardinia Creek.
The result of that conversation was that in April 2015 our APS group organised a public meeting at the Beaconsfield Community Centre. More than 100 people attended. Speakers included Bob Anderson OAM, Kelvin Thomson MP (former Shadow Minister for the Environment and a bird enthusiast), and Dr Roger Francey (a CSIRO scientist and former resident of Upper Beaconsfield).
The federally constituted Helmeted Honeyeater recovery team responded enthusiastically. The team made visits and several areas were selected for further habitat assessment. Eventually Environment Consultants identified the Cardinia Creek, upstream from Guys Hill, as the preferred site for a trial release. Years passed and a few months ago representatives from Zoo’s Victoria (who run the captive breeding program at Healesville sanctuary) announced plans for a trial release of 50 He Ho’s at Guys Hill in 2024 and 2025, subject to the success of numbers bred.
The latest news is that Zoo’s Vic are fencing off areas of Crown land so that feral deer can be excluded from areas where natural regeneration of vegetation should occur; they will then install aviaries to help captive birds transition into a new environment. Zoo’s Vic will conduct the releases and monitor the birds as, hopefully, they settle and breed where their ancestors lived.
By Alex Smart