The Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP) continues to proceed on track. No signs of introduced European Rabbits have been seen all this year, as shown by the following extract from the latest Macquarie Dispatch, the project's newsletter for August 2012 (No. 11).
"In the nine months since the last rabbit was found and dispatched on Macquarie Island, there's been no let-up in the hunting teams in efforts to ensure that any remaining rabbits are removed from the island.
A total of 13 rabbits have been found and killed since aerial baiting finished in July 2011. The last rabbit killed was in November 2011 and project manager Keith Springer is confident that rabbit numbers are now extremely low, with a ‘best guess' estimate that there may be fewer than five rabbits remaining on the island.
A fresh team of hunters joined the effort in April 2011 with four of the 2011/12 team selected to stay on with the project. The eradication team includes six hunters and six dog handlers.
The team's first month on the island was taken up with familiarisation and training in recognising rabbit signs such as grazing, scratchings and droppings and in hunting techniques including trapping, fumigating burrows and shooting. The dog handlers were paired with the dogs in an effort to find the best fit of skills and personalities. Each of the dogs has different skills; some are good on rock stacks, some for ranging at a distance from their handler, and some are best for close work in the thick tussocks. The island is divided into six hunting blocks, with dog handlers and hunters tackling one block for a four-week period. Each block has two huts and the teams roam between the huts, returning to the island's station at the end of the month's field work for four days of catching up on emails, phoning home to loved ones, socialising and resting."
There have also been no signs of rodents for a year now, which augers well for the island's albatrosses and petrels, including the ACAP-listed Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea which is doing well as the vegetation recovers in the absence of rodents and rabbits (click here).
A Grey Petrel in its burrow on Macquarie Island.
Photograph courtesy of the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service
Click here to access the weekly This Week at Macquarie Island electronic news on the Australian Antarctic Division's web site to view recent pictures of the hunting activities and of the dogs involved with MIPEP.
With thanks to Keith and Hamish Springer.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 3 September 2012