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Macquarie Island pest removal underway


Highly skilled dog trainers are being encouraged to register their interest in getting involved in a major rabbit and rodent eradication program for Tasmania's World Heritage listed Macquarie Island.

The dog training project is just one of a number of practical activities under the Australian and Tasmanian Government's joint $24.6 million Plan for the Eradication of Rabbits and Rodents on Subantarctic Macquarie Island.

Agreed in June this year, the seven-year plan is the most ambitious attempt in the world to eradicate rabbits, rats and mice from a large island.

In a joint media statement this week, Australian Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, and Tasmanian Minister for Tourism, Arts and the Environment, Paula Wriedt, said preliminary work was already underway.

One of Australia's 17 unique World Heritage listed areas, Macquarie Island is under increasing threat from rabbits and rodents. Rabbits are a particular problem, causing erosion and removing vegetation protecting burrowing seabird colonies.

Early work under the plan has seen fencing and rabbit control on North Head, test baiting and helicopter overflights around penguin colonies and discussions with expert dog trainers on the training required for rabbit eradication.

Rabbit hunting dogs will go in after the major baiting exercise is complete. They'll be trained to an exceptionally high standard, based on a certification system developed by the Department of Conservation in New Zealand.

The dog training project is being managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.

Parks and Wildlife will work closely with experts to select breeds and train a number of dogs, ensuring they consistently target rabbits - not native island animals.

After training is complete the dogs will be assessed against a stringent set of criteria, accredited, matched with an experienced handler and then sent into the field.

Handler and dog teams will be well-equipped for the island's rough terrain and cold weather.

All work is being guided by the best available science to use the most humane and efficient eradication methods.
Eradication is a long-term solution, not a short-term fix to ensure the exceptional natural beauty of the island and its outstanding universal values will be protected into the future.

Macquarie Island was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1997.

It is the only island in the world made entirely of oceanic crust and rocks from deep below the earth's crust. It is also home to a rich array of wildlife, including penguins, albatross and seals. For more detail visit www.heritage.gov.au.

Expert dog trainers interested in the training program can contact the project manager on (03) 6233 7876 or email keith.springer@parks.gov.tas.au.