VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
I’ve found my way to the end of the world, or more precisely Ushuaia on the southern tip of Tierra del Fuego. I’m most interested in seeing some of its most recent immigrants, the Canadian beavers (Castor canadensis).
The latest issue of the New Zealand Journal of Ecology just released documents how in fifty years the effects of invasive rodents have been reversed, along with some of the current exciting advances in rodent ecology and management.
It’s the end of the grey-faced petrel breeding season in New Zealand and hugely exciting to see the seabird chicks emerging from their underground burrows for the first time literally stretching their wings. It’s also equal parts horrendous to see neighbourhood cats walking at leisure through the sensitive breeding grounds of these birds recovering from centuries of hunting.
Island conservation often requires evaluating one species against another. Cat versus seabird, rat versus reptile, mouse versus invertebrate. Although scientists can document the evidence of impacts, e.g. the staggering rates of declines in native species enacted by introduced predators, conservation biologists must arbitrate what the moral course of action is. In a paper accepted this week in the journal Conservation Biology, myself and an international consortium of conservation biologists grapple precisely with these complex moral and ethical issues in invasive species eradication on islands.
I have just returned from the second World Seabird Conference #WSC2 held in Cape Town, South Africa at the end of October. The conference held by the World Seabird Union was a great opportunity to learn all about the recent research and conservation being undertaken on these incredible animals.
Just before leaving the Seychelles I had the opportunity to visit Desroches, a sandy coral atoll cay in the outer islands – very different to the inner granitic islands. Desroches is managed by Island Development Company (IDC) and contains a 5-star hotel and a conservation center and team from the Island Conservation Society (ICS).
Aride Island is the wildlife highlight of a visit to the Inner Granitics of the Seychelles, with more bird species than any other island. Ten species of seabird are found on this tiny 68 hectare island.
Curieuse Island in the Seychelles is steeped in all kinds of history. Lying just a kilometre off the coast of Praslin this 286 hectare island lies in its own marine national park and is named after the French ship La Curieuse, which arrived along with the ship La Digue
La Digue is the laid-back island of the Seychelles. At just over 1,000 hectares and full of postcard beaches around every corner, its possible to travel around the entire island in one day – and the mode of choice is the bicycle.
As I continue my journey through the Seychelles I visit North Island, or Île du Nord, touted as the most expensive luxury island resort in the world. The island was actually purchased in 1997 specifically to restore the ecosystem, and this work is made possible by the resort.
Sainte Anne is a 219 hectare island lying just off four kilometres from the coast of Mahé, Seychelles. It is the largest island of the Ste Anne Marine National Park and was originally discovered on Saint Anne’s Day in 1742. It was subsequently the first of the Seychelles islands to be settled by the French before they took up residency on Mahé.
I have just landed on Mahé Island, the main island of the Seychelles, where I will be spending the next two and a half weeks working with the Island Biodiversity & Conservation centre of the University of Seychelles, the NGO Island Conservation Society, and exploring the grantic islands of the Inner Seychelles. The Seychelles and New Zealand share a history of similar island conservation trajectories.
Although it’s the biodiversity that brings me to some of the most remote islands of the planet, the inhabited islands always have as rich a cultural history, equally at risk in this modernised world of mobility. Norfolk Island is no exception. There have been four distinct settlement phases of Norfolk Island.
Because of the great success in rat control across the island, its actually very hard to find a rat when you want one on Norfolk Island. Long-standing citizen Beryl Evans came to the rescue with a litter of rats she removed from her house. Beryl is also the most recently published scientist on Norfolk Island with her lifetime’s work tagging Tasman boobies (Sula dactylatra tasmani) in the latest issue of the journal Corella.
Norfolk Island is an external territory of Australia, currently governed by its own general assembly. Norfolk Island is the last island around New Zealand from which we need a genetic sample of the invasive rats to complete our phylogeographic map of invasive rats around New Zealand and neighbouring islands.