Hunting and aerial baiting videos
Click on the images below to see videos of important work that has been carried out on Macquarie Island.
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.
During the planning phase, the project had four core staff employed; 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.
Helicopters are 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, make them the only choice for accurate baiting on Macquarie Island.
Highly skilled pilots will be needed to deal with the challenging weather conditions and minimal daylight of a sub-Antarctic winter, when the bait drop will occur. Despite the weather conditions, winter has been chosen as this is when most of the wildlife will be absent from the island.
The use of four helicopters will require a lot of logistical support including ground staff, fuel storage and supply, mapping and communications. The remoteness from normal technical support will also mean a higher than usual capacity of mechanical expertise and materials will be required to ensure the helicopters are kept operational.
All transport of materials and staff to and from the island will be by ship.
Numerous supply and staff changeover voyages will be required throughout the project. Some of these will use the existing Australian Antarctic Division supply vessels on scheduled trips, and in other cases specific voyages may be required.
As well as staff and field equipment, huts, helicopters, fuel and the bait will need to be shipped to the island.
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.
One of the key factors to the success of the eradication operation is for the bait consignment to be transported to Macquarie Island and distributed to all target species in a palatable condition within three to six months of manufacture.
The project will use approximately 300 tonnes of bait.
The bait has been chosen for its track record in island eradication projects and because it performed well in the initial bait trials on Macquarie Island. It is produced by a New Zealand company which has a proven ability to supply the quantities needed.
It is important that the bait is delivered in fresh condition. This has required considerable research and trialling to develop bait pods (large storage containers) that can transport the bait and keep it protected from weather, condensation and pests.
There are no roads on Macquarie Island. Getting around the island involves walking. Ten field huts, strategically located around the island, will provide hunters and dog handlers with bases from which to conduct hunting operations.
The huts will also provide accessible shelter from which to work in rough terrain and extreme weather conditions. There are already five huts on the island and five new huts were established.
The new huts are converted watertanks, and are fitted with LPG cookers and heaters, with a generators to provide 240v and 12v power to run lights and radio communications.
The five new huts will be removed at the end of the operation.
Dogs will be used to detect rabbits and rodents on the island. Twelve dogs have been trained for rabbit detection. They will be on the island ready to go as soon as the baiting program finishes, putting maximum pressure on the rabbits at the time when numbers are low.
An important part of the training is to teach the dogs not to disturb native animals (the young springer spaniel pictured is beginning to learn this with chickens).
Three dog trainers have been contracted to train dogs. A mix of springer spaniels, labradors and one terrier have been trained. These were chosen because they have the right mix of working drive, size and hardiness to cope with Macquarie Island conditions and are known to work well with multiple handlers.
| Macquarie Island discovered by sealing brig, Perseverance
| Island seals and penguins exploited for oil
| prior 1820
| Cats established on Macquarie Island
|| 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
|| Cessation of penguin and seal exploitation industry on island
|| Macquarie Island established as a wildlife sanctuary
|The Australian Government established the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions station on island
||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
| 1980s - 90s
||Rabbit population reduced to about 10% of late 1970s levels through ongoing myxomatosis release program
||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
||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
||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
|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.
||Team arrives on Macquarie Island in Apri. Aerial baiting completed in July. Hunters and dog handlers arrive in late July to begin hunting of surviving rabbits.
Planning and Operations
|2004 - 08
|| Develop, peer review and finalise eradication plan
| Secure funding
| 2007 - 09
||Establish monitoring programs to assess impact of pests and future rates of recovery
| 2005 - 09
||Conduct trials of toxic bait and non bait control methods to refine project knowledge
| 2007 - 10
||Prepare all necessary environmental impact assessments, operational plans, regulatory processes (including quarantine, bait approvals, shipping, aviation, occupational health and safety and other assessments and approvals). Begin aerial baiting 2010. Install five new huts to support hunting operations.
The Eradication Plan and Associated Documents