Recently, grey petrels bred on Macquarie Island for the first time in over 100 years. They returned after feral cats were eradicated from the island through a campaign funded by the Natural Heritage Trust.
Macquarie Island lies about 1500 kilometres south-east of Tasmania in the Southern Ocean. It is a World Heritage listed site, where millions of seabirds come to breed each year. The island has also been home to feral cats brought there by sealers in 1820 ? at one time, cat numbers reached about 500 and they were killing up to 60 000 seabirds a year. In response, the Australian Government funded an intensive trapping program, undertaken by the Tasmanian Government between 1997 and 2001, to eradicate cats from the island once and for all. Between 1974 and 2000, a total of 2450 cats were caught on the island.
Cats were located and captured by spotlighting and trapping, and were then humanely destroyed. Towards the end of the program, specially trained dogs were used to make sure that no cats were missed. The program has been a success, and no cats have been seen on Macquarie Island since June 2000.
The cat eradication project was just one part of a pest management program being undertaken on the island in collaboration with the Tasmanian Government. Other introduced species of concern on the island are the European rabbit, the black rat and the house mouse. For many years, rabbit numbers have been kept relatively low by destroying warrens and releasing the virus that causes myxomatosis. Now, mice and rats are being targeted through localised baiting programs, to ensure that the absence of cats does not lead to population explosions in these species. These efforts will help threatened birds to make a comeback ? birds like the grey petrel, endangered according to World Conservation Union (IUCN) criteria, and the blue petrel, critically endangered according to IUCN criteria and listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
|Author||Department of the Environment and Heritage|
|Publisher||Department of the Environment and Heritage|