In Environment

Western Australia Minister for Environment Donna Faragher

Major Airlift Of Threatened Mammals

Victor P Taffa

Hundreds of threatened mammals are being airlifted from Barrow Island as part of a major conservation project to establish new populations on the mainland and on other islands.

Western Australia Minister for Environment Donna Faragher said the State Government’s translocation project was one of the biggest ever undertaken in Australia.

Mrs. Faragher said up to 500 golden bandicoots, 170 boodies, 140 spectacled hare wallabies and 140 possums would be airlifted from Barrow Island, Western Australia’s second biggest island, situated 50 km off the Pilbara coast.

They would be taken to one of three locations:

  • Montebello Islands (30 km North of Barrow Island),
  • Cape Range National Park near Exmouth
  • Lorna Glen, a former pastoral station about 800 km away in Central WA.

The Minister visited Barrow Island this week and was involved in the capture of some mammals and their release on Hermite Island, part of the Montebello Islands group.

Mrs. Faragher said the animals were being translocated as part of an offset program managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC), funded by Chevron and linked to the environmental approvals for the Gorgon project.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to translocate animals from Barrow Island where there are currently healthy populations of about 40-60,000 golden bandicoots, 5,000 boodies, up to 10,000 spectacled hare wallabies and 10,000 possums.” Mrs. Faragher said.

“The existence of large, healthy animal populations on Barrow Island has been assisted by the environmental management of Chevron, which has maintained an oil operation on the island and a class A nature reserve with strict quarantine controls for more than 40 years.”

The Minister said the mammals going to Hermite Island were part of DEC’s Montebello Renewal project, under the Western Shield program to control cats and foxes on 3.9 Million hectares of WA’s conservation lands.

“Feral cats and black rats used to be abundant on Hermite Island but intense efforts by DEC and volunteers in the past 10 years have led to their successful eradication.” Mrs. Faragher said.

“We are confident the island is in a condition to receive the mammals that once lived there and to become the basis for creating another stronghold for these threatened species.”

DEC Senior Principal Research Scientist Keith Morris said boodies and golden bandicoots once dwelt on Lorna Glen and across the arid region, but had disappeared since European settlement.

“The re-introductions will occur as part of Operation Rangelands Restoration, which is aimed at restoring ecosystem health and wildlife diversity to almost 600,000ha of rangelands in the North-Eastern Goldfields by 2020.” Mr. Morris said.

“Since 2001, DEC and the Wiluna Aboriginal community have carried out a range of activities to remove livestock and other introduced animals from Lorna Glen, manage bushfires and construct a boundary fence with neighbouring landholders.”

A 1,100 ha predator-proof compound has been built for re-introduced animals to acclimatise before being released into the wild and to seek shelter from the few remaining feral cats.

“Previous mammal re-introductions into unfenced areas in Australia’s arid interior have not been successful, mainly because of an inability to control feral cats that prey on small to medium-size native mammals.

“But recent advances in feral cat control techniques mean we can now go forward in the conservation of Australia’s most threatened native animals and the restoration of the arid zone.”

Mrs. Faragher said during the next 10 years, the State Government planned to re-establish 11 species of native animals at Lorna Glen.

“This will ensure that Lorna Glen is one of the world’s largest wildlife reconstruction programs.” Mrs. Faragher said.

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