A wildlife photographer has been arrested in a Tasmanian forest for protesting the logging of trees where he has taken photos of the critically endangered swift parrot.
Rob Blakers was arrested on Tuesday at the same spot where he previously took an amazing photo of 12 swift parrots in one tree. He estimates that there were 30 around him at the time — about 4% of the remaining population.
“It was extraordinary. I have only spent a few years looking for swift parrots, but this was far above anything else I’ve ever seen,” he tells The Guardian.
However, Blakers was outraged when the Tasmanian government logging agency began felling trees in the Eastern Tiers, a two hour drive from the capital of Hobart.
He joined with the Bob Brown Foundation and a group of protesters entered the area where Sustainable Timber Tasmania was cutting down trees. The police were called and asked Blakers to leave, when he refused he was arrested.
Blakers, who is a renowned nature photographer in Tasmania, says he is “furious” with the logging.
“My reaction was: how dare they? How can they just so brazenly ignore all of the science, all of the advice they have received, and just go in and smash this forest?” He tells The Guardian.
Blakers has been visiting that area of Tasmania for the last three years to document swift parrots, often climbing trees to get a shot of them in the canopy.
He says he has seen consistent aggregations of swift parrots in numbers not seen anywhere else in the world.
“Flocks of up to 30 birds were observed on several occasions, with 12 parrots photographed in a single tree on Christmas Eve,” he says.
“On many mornings and evenings, their calls were the dominant sound of the forest. At least one nesting site was confirmed, but there were almost certainly more.
“Parrots were flocking and feeding in both the canopy and at ground level. This was prime swift parrot habitat and an extraordinary natural phenomenon.”
At the time of logging, there were no swift parrots in the area as they spend winters on the Australian mainland and come to the forest in the summer to nest.
“Two weeks ago logging began in this forest. I spent two full days last week urgently attempting to contact Forestry Tasmania. There was no response to my calls,” he says.
“In the last few days I have returned to this forest to document the damage. The southeast portion of the coupe, which was alive with swift parrots through the summer, has been substantially logged.”
Blakers says the timber agency has broken its own rules after logging trees 114 feet (35 meters) from the nesting tree he captured in a photo. Under the agency’s rules, there is supposed to be a buffer of at least 164 feet (50 meters.)