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World record feral cat eradication for Dirk Hartog Island

DBCA staff and volunteers release hare-wallabies onto the island. Photo- DBCA
DBCA staff and volunteers release hare-wallabies onto the island. Photo- DBCA

Dirk Hartog Island National Park, off Western Australia's Mid-West coast, has become the world's largest island to have cats, sheep and goats fully eradicated, paving the way for extensive threatened animal re-introductions over the next 12 years.

Announcing the second stage of the groundbreaking 'Return to 1616' ecological restoration program, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson today declared the 63,000-hectare island cat, goat and sheep-free.

Dirk Hartog Island is the State's largest island and is home to the first known European landing on WA soil by Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog and his crew in 1616.

Since the introduction of grazing animals, cats and weeds, 10 native mammal species have been lost from the island. More than 5,000 sheep and 11,000 goats have now been removed, resulting in improved vegetation and habitat for native species.

Following extensive baiting, trapping and monitoring, no feral cats have been detected on the island since October 2016, making it the world's largest island-based feral cat eradication project.

Stage 2 will see the reintroduction of 10 native mammal species and one bird species that were known to exist on the island. In addition, two native mammal species that were not known to exist there, rufous hare-wallabies and banded hare-wallabies, are being introduced.

To start Stage 2 of the project, a team of Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions scientists have released more than 140 banded and rufous hare-wallabies onto the island over the past two weeks.

The $44.4 million project is funded by the Gorgon Barrow Island Net Conservation Benefits Fund and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Comments attributed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:

"The Return to 1616 program is innovative and ambitious, in that it aims to restore Dirk Hartog Island to the wildlife haven that it would have been 400 years ago when Dutch explorers first set foot on it.

"The massive-scale eradication of feral animals has been years in the making and is a huge achievement for the State Government, demonstrating world's best practice science, conservation and land management.

"Now, the island is set to become a refuge for some of WA's most iconic threatened animals such as woylies, dibblers, chuditch and boodies.

"Ideally, we can build these populations up to a point where they can be used as source animals for translocations across the State, under our flagship Western Shield wildlife conservation program."