Australia’s World Heritage-listed Macquarie Island is located 1,500 kilometres south-east of Tasmania and is home to nearly four million seabirds. Not only does it provide nesting habitat for four threatened albatross species but it is the only breeding ground for royal penguins on Earth (with an estimated population of about 850,000 pairs).
But Macquarie Island’s fragile vegetation and wildlife have been under attack from invasive species, especially rabbits, mice and rats. Severe overgrazing by more than 100,000 rabbits has caused landslides that have destroyed seabird nesting habitat. Rats and mice also attacked nests to eat eggs, and killed both chicks and adult birds.
What WWF is doing
WWF-Australia and Peregrine Adventures invested the $100,000 to kick-start a plan to eradicate these introduced species from Macquarie. On June 4, 2007 the Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments announced they had reached agreement to fully fund the $24.6 million plan.
After several years of planning, and a failed effort due to bad weather in the winter of 2010, the aerial baiting of the entire island happened between May and July 2011. Over 12,000 x 25kg bags of bait were spread across the island. Follow up work by hunters with dogs have removed 13 rabbits, the last one located in November 2011. No sign of rabbits has been seen since December 2011, however hunting efforts will continue for some years to ensure eradication is achieved. In other good news there has also been no sign of rats or mice present on the island since the baiting, and the vegetation and wildlife is already positively responding to the lack of rodents and rabbits.