The AUS$24.6 million project, jointly funded by the Australian Federal and Tasmanian Governments, is aimed at eradicating the large numbers of rabbits and rodents destroying the natural environment on the remote island south-east of Tasmania (click here). The 2010 attempt was aborted due to a long run of bad weather that halted the helicopters from distributing poisoned bait.
The Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, and the Tasmanian Environment Minister David O'Byrne today announced the project will continue next year following the recommendations of an expert review.
"The review advised that the pests are causing catastrophic damage to the Macquarie Island ecosystem and if this continues some seabird populations are likely to become extinct on the island," Mr Burke said.
"I have agreed to the continuation of the baiting program, which is crucial to eradicating rabbits and rodents from Macquarie Island, to protect its unique flora and fauna and irreplaceable World Heritage values.
"The review found that some birds died after scavenging the poisoned carcasses of dead rabbits, rodents and other birds. To mitigate this a team will be dedicated to searching for and removing poisoned carcasses following baiting and will also investigate using alternate food sources to divert these birds."
Mr O'Byrne said restoring the natural ecosystem will outweigh the short-term impacts.
"The continuation of this difficult and complicated project is vital to ensure the spectacular Macquarie Island ecosystem is restored. This effort demonstrates a commitment to protecting Australia's areas of outstanding heritage values, and also strengthens the capacity of our conservation management agencies to conduct eradication projects in the future.
"The Australian and Tasmanian Governments will continue working together to protect the outstanding universal values of Macquarie Island, taking every step to ensure as few birds as possible are harmed."
The baiting programme, which is carried out by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service, will continue in the winter months of 2011 to reduce the impacts on native species.
Click here for comment on the news from the Eradication Programme's Manager, Keith Springer.
Regular news of the pest eradication project can be obtained from its newsletter Macquarie Dispatch.
With thanks to Ian Hay for information.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 19 November 2010