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New team leader notes the healing of Macquarie Island


Hunters on Macquarie Island have walked the equivalent of nearly two circumnavigations of the earth in their hunt for any surviving rabbits, rats or mice since baiting was completed in 2011.

Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project (MIPEP) team leader, Peter Preston, delivering his first report since arriving on the island recently, noted that the total kilometers walked by hunters this year is 16,360 kilometres. The total kilometers chalked up by the project stands at a staggering 79,477 kilometres, or almost two circumnavigations of the earth’s 40,000 kilometres circumference.

Peter’s report follows:

My thanks to Stephen Horn (outgoing team leader) for making the transition as smooth as possible over the past month or so, and with his assistance in getting up to speed with the various file management systems.

The island is much the same as I remember it from my previous tenure as team leader in the 2011-2012 year. The huts and tracks are still in the same places, and the hills are just as steep and the featherbed just as soft!

However the island has changed in more subtle ways. Vegetation is recovering on depleted and damaged ground across the island.

The Macquarie Island cabbage has shown an enormous increase in cover and health, Pleurophylum is appearing in many areas of the plateau, previously barren. Buzzies (Aceana) are going to be an even bigger problem this coming summer with prolific and widespread growth.

The feldmark also appears much healthier, with many of the previously rabbit ravaged areas, particularly around Azorella, appearing much more as should be expected in a pest-free environment. This may be due to the lack of ongoing mechanical damage, caused by rabbits, in the form of holes and warrens, which subsequently allowed wind erosion to undermine plants, to their detriment. Colonies of mosses are springing up in the gaps between the Azorella and the long term prognosis (with the exception of the Azorella dieback) appears to be very good.

The term that springs to mind is “healing”, although I hasten to add, that term is in no way endorsed by any botanical society!

Most of the distinctive rabbit pads or runs have almost completely filled in and are now difficult to distinguish now.

This is all positive evidence that shows the ongoing effect of the MIPEP project, in the current phase where rabbits and rodents have not been seen for a period of two years. The physical signs of the initial baiting period of the program have largely grown over and the vast majority of baits have weathered and dissipated into the ground.

New team leader notes the healing of Macquarie Island

In the absence of rabbit grazing, mosses are regenerating on the feldmark.

New team leader notes the healing of Macquarie Island

The disturbed ground marking the line of baiting pods at Green Gorge, is barely distinguishable as the vegetation recovery continues.

New team leader notes the healing of Macquarie Island

Finn with a rabbit carcass used in training.

New team leader notes the healing of Macquarie Island

One of the rodent detection dogs with a group of penguins.