Norfolk Island rat baiting network and biosecurity project

Cruise ships are one of several pathways by which new invasive species can reach Norfolk Island. Photo: Thomas Huxley | CC BY-ND 2.0

Cruise ships are one of several pathways by which new invasive species can reach Norfolk Island. Photo: Thomas Huxley | CC BY-ND 2.0

In late 2016 the Invasive Species Council and Island Conservation, working with the local community, began a project on Norfolk Island to better control existing invasive pests and prevent the introduction of new potential pest species.

The project had two objectives:

Controlling rodents and ants

The first was to help the Norfolk Island community protect threatened species at risk from invasive pests by controlling rodents at Anson Bay and supporting eradication of Argentine ants.

Norfolk Island faces considerable pest threats to its forest ecosystems – among the worst are rodents and ants. Many native species, including the endemic Norfolk Island Green Parrot, are directly threatened with extinction by invasive pests. Seabirds once common on Norfolk Island are prevented from breeding by rats and uncontrolled cats, and a lack of nutrients from nesting seabirds is believed to result in a root disease that threatens the iconic Norfolk Island pine.

These pests are also threatening the livelihoods of Norfolk Islanders – they have devastating impacts on food crops – and represent an ongoing source of potential health problems. The highly invasive Argentine ants are a major concern – they can eliminate other insects, swarm and kill birds and small animals, and are a major pest for landholders.

Community initiative

The Anson Bay community rat baiting network aimed to create a network of rat baiting stations along property boundaries in the Anson Bay area. We provided funding to help the community buy equipment and supplies to carry out their work.

The project was first conceived by the Anson Bay community and has been extensively supported from the start by conservation organisation, Wild Mob, who, before 2017, funded materials for a small-scale baiting program on several properties and provided support, encouragement and connected the community to expert advisors.

Parks Australia provided in-kind support with bait transport, storage and distribution, and participation at working bees. To support the Anson Bay community rat baiting project, Parks Australia increased the density of their trap network along the national park boundary adjoining the private land at Anson Bay. The Threatened Species Commissioner provided a grant to increase the access track network to allow this work to take place.

Island Conservation Regional Director Ray Nias said,

“Our organisations have provided funding for baits and materials for bait stations to Anson Bay property owners. Bait station locations are logged by GPS, allowing improved reporting and long-term monitoring.”

“This will complement existing rodent baiting in the adjacent Norfolk Island National Park, assist rodent control in important sites for seabirds and other species and help significantly reduce the loss of fruit and vegetables to rodents.”

Baits and materials for bait stations were purchased and put in place in 2017. Community volunteers in the Anson Bay area regularly replace baits in the bait stations in 2018 and beyond. Ongoing monitoring of bird numbers will occur.

Strengthening biosecurity

The second objective was to improve the biosecurity of Norfolk Island and prevent the introduction of new invasive pests.

Through the project we gathered information about the status of the island’s biosecurity system while it transitions from the former independent Norfolk Island government to one managed jointly by the Australian government and the newly-formed Norfolk Island Regional Council.

Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said,

“There is much that can be done to improve the biosecurity of Norfolk Island so that future pest problems can be avoided.

“With biosecurity for Norfolk Island coming under the jurisdiction of the Australian government it is a good time to propose improved biosecurity measures to the federal government and the regional council.

“We have provided expertise and advocating for improvements in Norfolk Island’s biosecurity such as improved surveillance and quarantine measures to ensure new pest species do not become established on the island. By creating a model for a conservation-based biosecurity system we hope to increase the capacity of island communities to control and potentially eradicate pests, and to prevent the introduction of new pests. This will have long term benefits for the islands iconic natural environment”

Support

Funding for this work was provided by the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation (Eldon & Anne Foote Trust Donor Advised Program 2016) and the Packard Foundation.

 More info

Islands are critical habitat for around one third of Australia’s threatened animal species but also especially at risk from invasive species.

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