Short-tailed shearwater
Short-tailed shearwater (photograph: Helen Cunningham)

Tasman Island pest eradication milestone

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Pest Eradication Program marks 10-year milestone 

The Tasman Island Pest Eradication Program (formally known as the Tasman Island Natural Values Restoration Program) has marked 10-years since the island was declared free from feral cats to restore natural values. Many seabirds come to the island to breed and raise their young.

The program to eradicate cats from the 120-hectare island which is part of the Tasman National Park began in 2008, and the eradication plan was produced in 2009. 

Baiting of the island was undertaken on 3 May 2020, followed by trapping and hunting, with the last of the island’s feral cats trapped on 15 May 2020.

Trapping was followed by a year of intensive monitoring with cameras, volunteers searching for signs of cats and use of specialist detector dogs. No further signs of feral cats were found during that time and since. 

Invasive Species biologist for NRE Tas, Sue Robinson said since the island has become feral cat free there has been a significant increase in sea bird population numbers. 

“Before the island was free of feral cats, the cats were killing between 30,000 and 60,000 fairy prions per year plus a significant number of short-tailed shearwaters,” Sue said. 

“Monitoring of short-tailed shearwater burrows by NRE Tas’s biologists and Parks and Wildlife Service staff indicates the shearwater population has more than doubled to an estimated 15,000 pairs since the feral cats were removed ten years ago.

“It is likely the fairy prion population has also doubled to about 1 million pairs, with evidence of increased breeding activity indicating significantly more chicks fledging compared to when cats were present.

“Other species such as the secretive Lewin’s rail have also benefited from the removal of feral cats.”

A big congratulations to the Parks and Wildlife Service/NRE Tas staff for this achievement and the ongoing work to ensure the island remains feral cat free. Also, thank you to Pennicott Wilderness Journeys for their contributions which helped the project get off the ground. ​​

Published 6/10/2021