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Feral cats eradicated from Tasman Island


Tasman Island’s sea birds are on the road to recovery following the success of a program to eradicate feral cats and restore the island’s natural values.

The Minister for Environment, Parks and Heritage, Brian Wightman, said a final check of the island last week by staff from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment found no sign of feral cats and the island has been declared free from feral cats.

The program to eradicate cats from the 120 hectare island, which forms part of the Tasman National Park, began in 2008. Detailed research and planning was undertaken and an eradication plan was produced in 2009.

Tasman Island is home to Australia’s largest colony of fairy prions and it was estimated that the island’s feral cat population of about 50 was killing approximately 50,000 fairy prions and other sea birds each year.

Mr Wightman said the project is a positive model for future community-supported conservation programs.

“Tourism operator Rob Pennicott of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys strongly supported the project through a donation of $65,000 to the Wildcare Tasmanian Coast Conservation Fund,” he said.

“This was a significant part of the project’s total cost of $250,000 and Rob’s enthusiastic support has been greatly appreciated.

“Rob’s contribution to island and coastal protection is outstanding. It is an excellent example of how government, business and the community can work together to achieve significant conservation outcomes.

“The ongoing commitment of Rob to the protection and promotion of Tasmania’s fantastic marine and coastal environment is a legacy of which he, his family and his staff can be justifiably proud.”

Baiting of the island was undertaken on 3 May 2010, followed by trapping and hunting. The last of the island’s feral cats was trapped on 15 May 2010. Since then, teams have visited the island monthly, checking the island for any sign of cats using remote cameras, cat-detecting dogs and scouring the island’s plateau and steep boulder fields for cat signs such as fresh bird kills, scats or prints.

Mr Pennicott said that both he, and the staff from Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, felt very excited and proud to be able to be a part of this project.

“I love the thought that long after I’m gone the birds of Tasman Island will be able to breed and live uninhibited, something that future Pennicott generations can be proud of,” Mr Pennicott said.

“Congratulations also to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife staff working on the project for a job well done”

Mr Wightman said that departmental staff are confident that after 12 months they have covered the spectacular island very thoroughly and that no cats remain.

“We now expect to see a dramatic increase in sea bird numbers and the diversity of species found on the island as a result of the cats’ removal,” he said.

“Parks and Wildlife Service staff and Resource Management and Conservation Division staff from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment have learnt a great deal about eradication from this and the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project currently under way. They are investigating the possibilities of future island eradication projects in Tasmania.”

Feral cats eradicated from Tasman Island

Tasman Island with Cape Pillar behind.

Feral cats eradicated from Tasman Island

Wildlife biologist Sue Robinson with Clay, one of two cat-detecting dogs that have been part of the cat eradication project.