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Pest eradication on Macquarie and Lord Howe Islands to help seabirds

17/06/2011 18:47:39

Rabbit warren on Macquarie Island. 6 Rabbit_warren_2007 © Kate Kiefer/Australian Antarctic Division

Conservation cock-up on Macquarie Island

Removing an invasive species from the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, a World Heritage Site, has caused environmental devastation that will cost an estimated £10 million to remedy. 

Read more at Conservation cock up devastates Macquarie Island - £10 Million to fix 


Seabirds and rodents on Australia's outlying islands - Courtesy of Birdlife International 

June 2011. Rabbits and rodents have wreaked havoc on seabird populations on Macquarie Island, with rabbit grazing destroying albatross habitat and rodents preying on petrel chicks in their nests. Birds Australia has identified Macquarie Island as an Important Bird Area for four species of penguins, four species of albatrosses, Northern and Southern Giant-Petrels, White-headed Petrel and Brown Skua. Measures to reduce the number of introduced mammals on the island are crucial for seabird conservation.

Aerial baiting targeting rats, mice and rabbits
Birds Australia has just received an update on the progress of an ambitious aerial baiting program on the island from Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Manager, Keith Springer.
The program began last year, with the aim of eradicating rats, mice and rabbits from Macquarie Island. Unfortunately, bad weather brought a halt to the first phase of the program last July, but operations resumed this May. Hopefully the program will be successful this year.

Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease
Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus was introduced to the island last February, resulting in a significant reduction in rabbit numbers. This should reduce the potential for mortality among scavenging seabirds (primarily giant-petrels and Brown Skuas) which might feed on poisoned rabbit carcasses after aerial baiting. To further reduce the possibility, teams will remove dead rabbits so that scavengers cannot eat them.

Lord Howe Island
By mid-May this year, 75% of the first bait-drop across the island had been carried out, with the remainder due to be completed soon. Rats and mice also pose a significant threat to another of Australia's World Heritage listed islands: Lord Howe Island.

There is an ambitious plan to eradicate rodents from this island too, to restore it as a safe haven for many birds and other wildlife.

Birds Australia recently wrote to the Australian and New South Wales Governments urging them to fully fund the removal of rodents from Lord Howe Island. It is encouraging to see that the Australian Government has identified the eradication of rodents from Lord Howe Island as a priority in the 2011-12 Caring for Our Country Business Plan, which guides annual investment in national environment projects.

Like Macquarie Island, Lord Howe Island is also a designated Important Bird Area. It has globally significant populations of both endemic birds and seabirds: Providence Petrel, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Flesh-footed Shearwater, Little Shearwater, Red-tailed Tropicbird, Lord Howe Woodhen and Grey Ternlet. The eradication of rodents from Lord Howe would benefit at least 13 bird species - and White-bellied Storm-Petrels and Kermadec Petrels might be able to re-establish nesting colonies on the main island.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment


to Michelle:

Thanks for proving what I already knew. That ALL cats must be destroyed everywhere they are found in nature BEFORE the problem gets out of hand. As well as any other invasive-species. I had to do exactly that on my own land. But it didn't take any expense and not much time at all. Two seasons and at the cost of 0.3 cent per bullet. In only two seasons I was able to completely eradicate ALL the cats from my land in order to return the balance of nature back to normal. A balance that YOUR disease-infested cats had destroyed for nearly 2 decades--solved in only 2 hunting seasons with ONE rifle by ONE person. I guess those who were trying to rid this island of cats were just really bad shots.

All the native predators here now take care of any excess rabbits and rodents, all of which are native wildlife here. The native predators are much better at it than cats anyway. I particularly enjoy having a near full-time resident owl in my yard watching over things. I hadn't seen an owl in over 15 years because your lousy cats had eaten all the local predators' food sources, starving all the predatory wildlife to death by disemboweling and torturing all their food sources to use as cats' play-toys. The only "wildlife" here for 15 years was lousy POS cats. Nice to see all these animals back again now that all the lousy invasive-species cats are gone.

Oh, and as for the blatant TNR-advocates' lie about the "vacuum effect", it is just that. A LIE. NO CATS have replaced all those that I had to destroy. Why is that? Did some local idiots wake up to the fact that all their cats were now dead and it would happen again to any new ones they'd release onto my land? Must be. I guess they're not as amazingly ignorant and stupid as all TNR proponents.

Just like all Toxoplamsa gondii infected minds of cat-advocates who can no longer think clearly nor know right from wrong anymore, you want to see these invasive species cats destroy even more native wildlife all over the planet. Even using the fragile habitat of an island to try to twist your cause in their favor. You need psychological treatment, you know that, don't you?

Posted by: Woodsman | 10 Jul 2011 18:10:41

Do your research!

Actually, there used to be feral cats on Macquarie Island, and they kept the rats and rabbits in check. A very expensive multi-decade extermination effort killed all the cats. It was then that the rat and rabbit populations exploded, causing far more damage to the World Heritage Island and its birds than was every caused by the cats. The removal of the cats is what triggered the problems that the current extermination campaign seeks to cure. There were all sorts of articles written about how what happened here should serve as a warning to other efforts to eliminate cats, since doing so can trigger this kind of mesopredator release effect and be much worse for the native wildlife.

Posted by: Michelle Lerner | 03 Jul 2011 18:21:16

At last, some smart people!

Thanks to all who didn't decide to use an even more disastrous and destructive animal to help in this problem. Namely cats. Then they would have wiped out EVERYTHING and would spread even deadlier diseases to all wildlife, just as they do everywhere they are found.

Posted by: Woodsman | 25 Jun 2011 01:13:08

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