SYDNEY, March 30 (Xinhua) -- The deaths of 16 critically endangered iconic parrots in a Australia's Tasmanian breeding facility have been blamed on an ineffective disinfectant.
The 16 orange-bellied parrots, which represented 11 percent of the 136 parrots existing in captivity, died over a month at the facility in Taroona, 10 km south of Hobart, in January.
Associate Professor David Phelan, an expert in animal management who was brought in to investigate the deaths, concluded that the common bacteria pseudomonas aeruginosa killed the 16 birds.
Phelan said that the bacteria had grown in sprouted seeds, used to feed the birds, which had become resistant to a disinfectant spray used to kill the bacteria.
"The issue boiled down to basically the way the seeds were being sprouted and types of disinfection used to prevent bacterial infection," Phelan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.
"The reason we sprout seeds is it changes their nutrient composition into that something more easily digestible and is more nutritionally balanced.
"We take the seeds, we soak them in water overnight and then usually incubate them in a warm environment for another period of time, a few hours or a day.
"During that time there is the potential for bacteria to grow in those seeds while they're sprouting."
The incident was the latest in a string of incidents in which parrots at the facility have been killed.
In January 2016 rats got into the facility and killed 14 birds and in 2013 a cat breached a perimeter fence and startled two birds, both of which died after they flew into a wall.
The orange-bellied parrot is a small parrot native to southern Australia, which is one of only three parrot species in the world that is known to migrate.
Birdlife Tasmania's Eric Woehler said it was critical that the government heed the warnings of Phelan.
"Given the species is critically endangered in Australia, it has fewer than 20 birds left in the wild. It is critically important that the government adopts world best practice in the management of the species to ensure the species doesn't slide into extinction," Woehler said.
Three recently hatched orange-bellied parrots in the wild were also recently killed by the same bacteria, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment confirmed.