Taking rabbits and rodents out of the equation

The Macquarie Island Rabbit and Rodent Eradication Project

Macquarie Island offers a good example that effective island conservation makes for an excellent return on investment. Here Justine Shaw (NERP, Uni of Queensland) and Keith Springer (Eradication Project Manager, Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service) describe what’s being achieved.

The largest effort to eradicate rabbits and rodents from an island is currently underway on Macquarie Island. Preliminary observations suggest this conservation investment will pay big dividends. Within six months of the poisonous baits being deployed, areas that had been degraded by the heavy grazing of the rabbits were beginning to recover with the re-establishment of vegetation and, more recently, several burrowing petrel species have returned to breed. The successful eradication of rabbits and rodents from Macquarie Island should leave the island free of these vertebrate pests for the first time in over 150 years, and is a significant step forward in the conservation of this World-Heritage-listed sub-Antarctic Island.

 

Vertebrate pests arrived with the sealing gangs – the island’s first human inhabitants. Cats were introduced to Macquarie Island in the early 1800s and rabbits  were introduced as a food source in the late 1870s. Ship rats and house mice were accidentally introduced to Macquarie Island in cargo transported to the island, they were reported established on the island by the late 1800s. Wekas or Maori hen were also introduced for food in 1867. Macquarie Island has no native land mammals and the introduction of these invasive species played havoc with the island’s ecosystems…

 

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