Sunday, December 02, 2007

Macquarie Island again

I get pessimistic about the sorts of biodiversity conservation concerns I hold strongly. I felt sad this week when I read of a couple of drunken Western Force rugby players being convicted of 'hammer-throwing' endangered Quokkas on Rottnest Island near Perth. The Quokkas are a macropod that basically survives on two offshore islands that are free from foxes – but not humans. One of the footballers was fined $11,000.

The Quokkas are friendly animals that show no fear of humans - they would have been an easy target for these morons.

Earlier this year I posted on the lack of biodiversity conservation effort on Macquarie Island – the island, a World Heritage area about halfway between Australia and Antarctica, is home to 3.5 million seabirds and 80,000 elephant seals and is one of the few breeding sites in the Pacific section of the Southern Ocean. The Age today includes an article and an editorial on the urgency of this issue. Essentially feral cats were wiped out on the island on 2002/03 leading to an explosion of rabbit and rat numbers. Subsequent disputes between Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments over who would foot the repair bill have led to nothing being done. The Age article provides a devastating picture of destruction on this great wilderness area. It concludes:

The feral destruction of the island's native vegetation is akin to Ayers Rock being taken over by 100,000 clowns with jackhammers or the Great Barrier Reef being used as torpedo practice.
Politically the area is part of Tasmania. The Tasmanian Government has finally – after a devastating report by WWF - agreed to put up its share of the bill (half of $26 million) and will initiate a program of using baits to kill rats and hunting dogs trained to kill rabbits but not nesting penguins and albatrosses. The question is whether action has been left too late. King penguins – pictured - have been killed in landslides on slopes destroyed by rabbit foraging. Gassing rabbit warrens and using sharpshooters would reduce the pressure imposed by overwhelming rabbit numbers and give other instruments for control more time to work.

1 comment:

andrewt said...

Quokka still have a foothold on the mainland with about 20 known small populations in the SW.

Macquarie I. should go to federal control - Tasmanian doesn't have the resources.