Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project
Source: Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project Newsletter – Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service
Issue 12 – January 2013
Australian and New Zealand expertise in 2013 team
The 2013 hunting team is about to commence training in Hobart and will be deployed to Macquarie Island in early March. There they will swap over with the 2012 team who’ve searched the island for rabbit sign since May 2012, covering thousands of kilometres in the search for rabbits. Encouragingly, the post-baiting tally remains at 13.
Training includes eradication project-based components while Australian Antarctic Division pre-departure training includes search and rescue training, field training and community training. The 2013 team of 12 is drawn from Australia and New Zealand and includes three of the 2012 team staying on for a second stint - eradication team leader Stephen Horn and assistant team leaders Karen Andrew and Stuart Johnson.
Stephen Horn has been working on Macquarie Island since April 2012 as a dog handler. He is excited about his appointment as eradication team leader.
“The opportunity to lead a team for this year, to ensure we achieve the eradication outcome of this significant project, will be a highlight for me,” Stephen said.
“It is a wonderful experience being part of a small team, in an environment as stimulating as that of Macquarie Island. We work and live on this island, embracing all that it encompasses in terms of weather and the opportunity to live amongst the fauna and recovering flora of this World Heritage site.”
Winter 2013 marks two years since the completion of aerial baiting on Macquarie Island. As outlined in the operational plan, a check will be made for rodent presence using rodent detection dogs. To implement this work, two of the New Zealand’s Department of Conservation’s foremost rodent dog handlers will join the 2013 team, together with their certified rodent detection dogs. They have many years of experience between them in searching islands for rodent presence after an eradication program, from Raoul Island in the sub-tropical Kermadec Islands, to sub-Antarctic Campbell Island.
Their task on Macquarie is to scour the island to determine whether rodents are present or not. It’s a big ask as there are endless nooks and crannies where a surviving rodent could be living, especially amongst the boulder fields in and around penguin colonies. The two year post-baiting period is primarily to give any rodent survivors a chance to breed up to the point where there is a higher probability of detecting these individuals. The 2011 and 2012 hunting teams have also been keeping an eye out for rodents in the course of their rabbit hunting work with no confirmed sign found to date. A zero find by the rodent detection team at the end of their work should provide confidence for the team to declare the island free of rats and mice, a major goal of the project.