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Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project

The Eradication Project

Hunting and aerial baiting videos
Click on the images below to see videos of important work that has been carried out on Macquarie Island.

Hunting on Macquarie Island video













Aerial baiting on Macquarie Island video

Pest Eradication Principles

Eradication of a species from an area is distinct from control. It requires 100 per cent removal of a pest species from the target area, otherwise it cannot be deemed successful.

Unlike control methods which are intended to be ongoing, eradication is intended to be a once-off, or a final resolution to the problems caused by invasive species.

Almost all forms of pest control or eradication become more difficult with successive attempts (this is for a variety of reasons). This is true for both the methods to be employed in the Macquarie Island eradication project – poison baiting and hunting. When targeting pest populations it is important that the first attempt is the best possible one.

As a result it is vital that eradication projects are meticulously planned.

Eradication projects also need perseverance. The last individual animals will usually be the most difficult to get, and the most expensive and time consuming. This can be dispiriting, but it is an inevitable and critical part of an eradication project.

Finally, having achieved eradication from a target area, robust biosecurity measures need to be in place to insure the risk of reinvasion is extremely low. A few stray rodents reaching an island in the future could undo all the work of eradicating them.

Project ComponentsMacquaries Island Pest Eradication


During the planning phase, the project employed four staff; the project manager, assistant project manager, project officer and administration officer. Current staff include a project manager and a hunting team on the island.

About 30 staff were employed in the peak activity of aerial baiting, including helicopter pilots and ground support staff, field assistants, and other specialist roles such as GIS support. About 12 hunters and dog handlers are recruited annually for the follow-up rabbit hunting operations.

Helicoptersmacqaurie island helicopter

Helicopters were central to the first stage of the eradication project – the aerial baiting. Their manoeuvrability and ability to hover, together with the ability to spread bait accurately from under-slung buckets, made them the only choice for the accurate baiting requirements on Macquarie Island.

Despite the weather conditions, winter was chosen as the preferred time for baiting, as this is when most of the wildlife are absent from the island.

Marina Svetaeva at Sandy Bay


All transport of materials and staff to and from the island is by ship.


The bait is comprised of pellets of coarsely ground grain, a lure to attract animals, and a small amount of wax to repel water. The bait contains the toxin brodifacoum; an anti-coagulant often used in domestic rat poison.

The project used approximately 300 tonnes of bait. The bait was chosen for its track record in island eradication projects and because it performed well in the initial bait trials on Macquarie Island.


macquarie Island huts

There are no roads on Macquarie Island. Getting around the island involves walking. Ten field huts, strategically located around the island, have provided hunters and dog handlers with bases from which to conduct hunting operations.

Steve and Gus


Dogs have been used to detect rabbits and rodents on the island. An important part of their training was to teach the dogs not to disturb native animals. The young springer spaniel pictured is beginning to learn this with chickens.

Rodent detecting dogs joinED the project in 2013. Winter 2013 marks two years since the completion of aerial baiting and the task of rodent dogs is to scour the island to determine whether rodents are present or not.


  Macquarie Island discovered by sealing brig, Perseverance
 Island seals and penguins exploited for oil
 prior 1820
 Cats established on Macquarie Island
 1870s  Rabbits and weka introduced by sealers to Macquarie Island
 Early 20th C  Rats and mice recorded as established on the island (likely to have been much earlier)
 1911 - 1914  Mawson established a research station on the island
 1919  Cessation of penguin and seal exploitation industry on island
 1933  Macquarie Island established as a wildlife sanctuary
The Australian Government established the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions station on island
 1968 Rabbit fleas introducted to provide a vector for eventual release of myxoma virus to control rabbit numbers. Flea releases continued for the following decade. 
 The Tasmanian Government Parks and Wildlife Service commenced an active role in management of the island
 1978 - 79 Rabbit population reached an estimated 150,000
 1978 Myxomatosis introduced
 1980s - 90s Rabbit population reduced to about 10% of late 1970s levels through ongoing myxomatosis release program
 1985 First cat control program commenced
 1998 - 2000 Intensive cat eradication program resulted in last cat being destroyed in June 2000
 1999 - 2003 Rabbit population observed to be growing. Reduced effectiveness of myxomatosis evident.
Production of virus ceases 1999.
 2004 - 05 In response to increasing rabbit numbers and rodent impacts on burrowing seabirds a Natural Heritage Trust funded project produced a draft eradication plan for these species
 2006 The 2006 Macquarie Island Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area Management Plan is finalised including recommendation to undertake an eradication program for rabbits, mice and rats.
 2007 The Tasmanian and Australian Governments announced a joint commitment to fund a $24.6 million eradication project – the largest of its kind in the world to date for these three species
 2007 - 10 Key staff are employed and commence planning for the eradication project. All necessary environmental impact assessments, operational plans, regulatory processes (including quarantine, bait approvals, shipping, aviation, occupational health and safety and other assessments and approvals) are prepared. Five new huts are installed to support hunting operations.
Aerial baiting begins on Macquarie Island. Adverse weather conditions limit helicopter operations and decision is taken to cease further baiting and withdraw the team in late July.
 2011 Team arrives on Macquarie Island in April. Aerial baiting completed in July. Hunters and dog handlers arrive in late July to begin hunting of surviving rabbits. Thirteen rabbits killed in hunting operation. No further rabbits killed since November 2011. Hunting continued during 2012.
 2013 Rabbit hunting continues. Rodent detection dogs deployed to the island to confirm the presence or absence of rats and mice. 
 2014 Project declared successful in April 2014 upon return of team from Macquarie Island to Hobart.

The Eradication Plan and Associated Documents