Kaarakin - Black Cockatoo Rehabilitation Centre

In our 11th hour bid to try to save the mature trees along Manning Road, I met Chris Phillips, general manager of Kaarakin, located in 40 hectares of bushland in the Darling Ranges near Gosnells. The Centre is not only about the rehabilitation of the Forest Red-tailed Black and Carnabys cockatoos, both native to Western Australia and critically endangered, although these magnificent birds are its focus and reason for being. It is also about preserving biodiversity, the rehabilitation of the forest, and building an education and scientific base of which future generations will be proud.

The custodian of the Centre is Chris Phillips, its tireless general manager.  Chris and his band of employees and volunteers, with the help of grants and donations, are working to save both the forest and the birds from extinction.  They are not yet sure of success, but will not give up without a fight.

The site at Kaarakin is severely degraded by drought, dieback which kills the jarrahs and marri canker that afflicts the marris. It is heartbreaking to see mature and young marris that seem to be bleeding to death, with no prospect of a cure in sight. Thousands of young trees are being propagated and planted to rehabilitate the forest. This is encouraging although of course the results are slow, and it takes 150 years or more before a tree will form the hollow suitable for cockatoo nesting.

Cockatoos are social and sociable creatures. They mate for life and often return to the same hollow year after year to nest, provided that the tree has survived the chainsaws and has not been usurped by other hollow dwellers, such as wood ducks. As habitat shrinks, food becomes scarce and competition fierce, which may cause the birds to turn from their natural diet (mainly marri and jarrah seeds) to farmed crops. Most of the injuries to the birds at the Centre come from being hit by a car or gunshot wounds.

Many of the birds at the Centre will be treated and ultimately released back into the wild. Before they go they are moved to a long low enclosure where they can test and build up their wing strength in preparation for their departure.  Other birds are permanent residents (the “friendlies”) who will sit on your shoulder, nibble your ears and (if you are not careful) steal your jewellery.  These birds are domestic pets or injured beyond recovery.  They are educators for visitors, and love the attention.

Chris and his team are working on the restoration of the abandoned restaurant and bar (with magnificent views over Perth and its environs) which will ultimately be a conference centre. They have also restored forest wetlands to the obvious delight of the local waterfowl, and have a large dingo enclosure where Max, Mia and their pups come at the call of a whistle. According to Chris they are far more wolf than dog, and far too clever to be trained – unlike their handlers who have to be very well trained to manage them.

The great pride of the Centre is the new breeding enclosure, soon to be tested to see if cockatoos will breed successfully in captivity. We can only hope, for their sake and ours, that they will.

For further information, contact Chris Phillips on 93902288 or visit the Black Cockatoo Rehabilitation Centre website

Find out more about the campaign to protect mature trees in urban areas and the campaign against the Roe 8 extension.