Elephant seals and penguins fill the coastline on Macquarie Island
The Elephant Seal census at Lusitania Bay October Paul Black

Ranger round-up from Macquarie Island

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The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service team at Macquarie Island have had a busy season this year working on the usual tasks that rangers would work on in most field centres but in a much more remote, challenging and beautiful area with an incredible abundance of wildlife. 

Ranger in charge Paul Black said the team's major tasks this year included  biosecurity operations, wildlife monitoring, infrastructure maintenance and marine debris collection.

Macquarie Island is a Nature Reserve and World Heritage Area located halfway between Tasmania and Antarctica. It is an important breeding site for many sub-Antarctic species including seabirds, seals and penguins.

“This year, monitoring efforts were focused on species such as king, gentoo and rockhopper penguins; and the  annual census of breeding elephant seals in October, and fur seals from December to February," Mr Black said.

“We kept a close eye on the wandering albatross chicks throughout the winter and banded them prior to fledging. We monitored the wandering albatross that returned to breed over the summer as well as the islands population of grey-headed and black-browed albatross.

“We also undertook censuses investigating chick production from the northern and southern Giant petrels. The data collected during this season will be used to inform island management decisions and meet state and national reporting obligations." 

The team is also responsible for maintaining the extensive network of walking tracks and infrastructure, including bridges and viewing platforms, building wildlife barriers and clearing overgrown vegetation.

The 150-kilometre track network traverses steep slopes, creek crossings, and is subject to heavy rain, snowfall, landslips and erosion.

“One of the sad things to see at Macquarie Island is the amount of marine debris that washes up on the west coast each year," Mr Black said. 

“With the assistance of other expeditioners, we spent time during the winter scouring the beaches of the west coast collecting marine debris consisting of large amounts of fishing gear such as long line ropes and buoys, drink bottles and other various soft plastics."

The debris is harmful to marine life as well as being unsightly on an otherwise pristine beach in a remote World Heritage Area.

“All in all, we've had quite a successful year given the large amount of work completed with the assistance of our cheerful fellow expeditioners," Mr Black said.  

Published 5/04/2024