Islands in focus: Australia

Macquarie Island, TAS

Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area is situated approximately 1500 km from Tasmania in the subantarctic. It is 34 km
long, averages 5 km wide, and is 12,870 ha in size. Macquarie has outstanding conservation values, supporting some 100,000 seals, 3-4 million penguins and more than 17 threatened species of marine mammals and seabirds, and one threatened plant species (with 4 other species awaiting gazettal).

Unfortunately, the island also has a range of introduced predators and browsers. Cats, weka (a predatory New Zealand rail), rabbits, ship (black) rats and house mice were all introduced in the 19th century. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service has been managing these feral animals on the island since the 1970s. Weka were eradicated by 1989 and cats by 2000. Myxoma virus was introduced regularly from the late 1970s and controlled rabbit numbers for about 30 years, resulting in partial recovery of the vegetation.

Unfortunately, rabbits have recently increased in numbers again and both rabbits and rodents are having substantial impacts on the island’s flora and fauna. Exclosure plots have been established around the island to protect threatened plant species.


Faure Island, WA

Faure Island, in the midst of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area off Western Australia, was purchased in 1999 by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). The organisation has since undertaken an ambitious and successful transformation of the 5,300 ha island by removing cats and goats and by reducing stock numbers. Faure Island is now a wildlife sanctuary of national significance. Five of Australia’s rarest and most endangered species have been successfully reintroduced back to Faure Island, restoring its original biodiversity.


Muttonbird Island, NSW

Muttonbird Island (33º18’S, 153º09’E), is an 8 ha land-bridged island located 600 m off the Australian east coast at Coffs Harbour, NSW at the mouth of the local marina and fishing port. The island is a tourist destination and is well used by the local community for recreational purposes. It is also home to a regionally significant breeding population of wedge-tailed shearwater (Puffinus pacificus).

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages the island, which was gazetted as a Nature Reserve in 1971 for the conservation and study of seabirds. The Muttonbird Island Research Group was created in 2008, with members of NPWS, University of New England and Bird Banders collaborating to inform the site’s management decisions.

The shearwater population has been monitored by volunteers for over 40 years and concerns were raised in recent years about the declining population of birds and increasing numbers of rats. Significant numbers of the native swamp rat Rattus lutreolus, equal numbers of the introduced black rat R. rattus and large numbers of the house mouse Mus domesticus were captured during a 2007 survey. NSW NPWS are attempting to develop a rodent control program that has to balance the complex array of factors of baiting a high human visitation island; particularly where a native rat and two introduced rodents co-exist. Muttonbird Island contains the only known R. lutreolus population on an Australian island.


Bowen Island, NSW

Bowen Island is located in the mouth of Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia, some 250 km south of Sydney and 35 km east of Nowra. The island is managed as a part of the NSW Booderee National Park and is renowned for its breeding populations of little penguin (Eudyptula minor), and three species of shearwaters (Puffinus species). Black rats (Rattus rattus) have been perceived as a pest on Bowen Island for decades. They were probably introduced by early explorers taking shelter in Jervis Bay, and subsequent arrivals probably occurred via ship stores during the pioneer farming era.


islandnet_small

Last updated: October 25, 2010

PestSmart Connect is a toolkit of information on best practice pest animals management in Australia.