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Macquarie Island baiting program to continue


One of the planet’s largest pest eradication projects is set to continue on World Heritage listed Macquarie Island.

The $24.6 million project - jointly funded by the Australian 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.

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. The Kelp Gull was the only species primarily affected by eating the poisoned pellets themselves.

“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 program, which is carried out by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, will continue in the winter months of 2011 to reduce the impacts on native species.