So, where the bl**dy hell are you?

March 7, 2019 11:17 am

PHOTO: Rottnest Island, Western Australia

When we think of Australia, its continental character springs to mind: vast deserts, bushland basins and fringing forest, farms and cities.

New Zealand, much more of an island place.

Yet, in rivalry stakes, Oz has us beaten even there.

I’ve just returned from giving a key note presentation at the biennial Island Arks Symposium held this year on Rottnest Island, a short ferry ride from Freemantle.

I learned Australia has stewardship of 8411 islands – atolls, cays, tropical, sub-tropical and temperate islands, sea stacks, sand islands and oceanic islands from Lord Howe to sub-Antarctic Macquarie.

We run out of island names in the 600s.

The symposium brought together residents, managers, researchers and conservation practitioners to share experiences about looking after island places.

While our focus is on rats, stoats and possums, Australian native species face threats from a host of introduced animals including feral cats, red foxes and cane toads.

Our bird-dominated native fauna contrasts with their endangered mammals – quolls, bandicoots, dibblers, bilbies, boodies, woylies, potoroos and quokkas.

We have a common story of devastation caused by rodents, vulnerable relic seabird populations and successful island eradication and translocation programmes.

I was interested to hear of their experience with camera surveillance, trials of a new ‘grooming trap’ that dispenses a measured dose of 1080 to be licked off the coat of feral cats, new humane, species-specific toxins for foxes and cats, and widespread use of detector dogs.

Other kiwi participants explained the history of our island predator eradications and the tools we have developed for success.

Australians were impressed with the ambition and commitment of the New Zealand government to the Predator Free 2050 vision. Many of their conservation initiatives are state-led and face the challenges of fragmented landscapes, contributing agencies and funding streams.

The part of my presentation that resonated most with the audience was the video clips from Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and Dunedin which showed the depth of council, community and iwi involvement in our projects.

Gondwana Link's CEO, Keith Bradby and a Quokka
LEFT: Gondwana Link’s, CEO, Keith Bradby and RIGHT: A local Quokka

On my return I visited Albany on Western Australia’s south coast, where the Gondwana Link project is helping to purchase and restore patches of surviving bushland across 1000 km from Margaret River to the Nullarbor desert.

Its efforts are led by Keith Bradby who, dressed in a stockman’s hat and boots, showed me around some of his sites and introduced field workers.

He was generous, wise company and a reminder that whatever side of the Tasman you’re from, getting people on board and keeping them together is the key to successful conservation.

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