Saturday, 23 February 2013

Western Australia to reconstruct one of the world's most important islands for mammal conservation

Return to 1616: Dirk Hartog Island National Park ecological restoration project
February 2013. A ground-breaking and world-class project is set to restore ecosystem health and wildlife diversity to Western Australia's biggest island, Dirk Hartog Island, situated in the Shark Bay World Heritage area on the far western edge of the Australian continent.
13 ground dwelling mammals disappeared from the island
The Return to 1616 project aims to return the 63,000 hectare island to its pristine state of 400 years ago, when Europeans first landed there. In 1616 at least 13 ground-dwelling native mammal species occurred on the island. These included small kangaroo-like boodies and woylies, and western barred bandicoots, chuditch and dibblers.
Removal of sheep and goats
The ambitious program will see the removal of all sheep, goats and feral cats from Dirk Hartog Island, re-establishment of healthy vegetation and re-introduction of mammal species once known to exist there.
The project is funded by DEC and the Gorgon Barrow Island Net Conservation Benefits fund in a partnership that has the potential to yield world-class conservation outcomes over the next 20 or more years.

Chuditch and dibblers
In 1616 the island was pristine, with at least 13 ground-dwelling native mammal species. These included small kangaroo-like boodies and woylies, and western barred bandicoots, chuditch and dibblers. From the 1860s until the early 2000s, the island was used by pastoralists to run sheep, and the Cape Inscription lighthouse was established in 1910. By the late 20th century the island had become popular with fishing enthusiasts, divers and snorkellers.
All but 3 mammals disappeared
By this time goats and feral cats were well established on the island and only three small mouse-sized native mammal species still occurred; the ash-grey mouse, sandy inland mouse and little long-tailed dunnart. In 2009 Dirk Hartog Island became a national park, providing the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) with the opportunity to restore its natural environment in partnership with the island's other land managers and the Shark Bay community

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