Macquarie Island is a nature reserve which is looked after by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and was named after the Governor of New South Wales – Colonel Lachlan Macquarie. The island is in the southwest Pacific Ocean and situated halfway between Antarctica and New Zealand.
Macquarie Island is home to a great number of native animals such as: Fur seals, Elephant seals, Royal penguins, King penguins, Rockhopper penguins and Gentoo penguins, along with many more. Due to the devastating effects that the commercial value of the animals, Macquarie Island became a Tasmanian State Reserve back in 1978 to help protect the wildlife that live there.
Macquarie Island was made a target back in the 19th and 20th century due to the commercial interest of the animals that reside there. Captain Frederick Hasselborough, who found the island, was mainly interested in the value of the fur seals on the island. At the time of discovery there were an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 seals and within the first 18 months, around 120,000 fur seals were slaughtered for their skin. Around ten years later fur seals were almost wiped out from the island.
Once the fur seals were almost killed off, Hasselborough’s focus then went onto the elephant seals. The Elephant seals’ blubber contained oil that was being used commercially back then. By the mid-1840s, the population of Elephant seals had dropped by 70%.
Healing Macquarie Island
During the time when Fur seals and Elephant seals were being hunted, the hunters brought rabbits with them on the journey as a source of food. The rabbits gradually made their way onto the island and have ever since been destroying the wildlife. The rabbits have wrecked the homes of Marine birds, destroying vegetation as well as causing soil erosion.
This problem is being dealt with by a team of hunters who are dropping poison pellets out of helicopters to help kill off the rabbits and help the island recover from the damage. If this plan does not work to its full effect, the hunters will then send out trained dogs to find the rabbits. These dogs will not be trained to kill the rabbits, rather locate them for the hunters to them shoot themselves.
The trained dogs may have to live on the island for a number of years until the mission has been completed and therefore need to be trained to live alongside the other wildlife peacefully. The drawback from this entire process will be that some native birds are expected to be killed during the hunting of the rabbits.
Experts say that while the island is continuing to get better, if there is as much as two rabbits left on the island after the mission then the entire plan will have failed.
Macquarie Island was made a wildlife sanctuary in 1933 and then became a conservation area. The island was then renamed ‘Macquarie Island Nature Reserve’ in 1978 and has ever since been healing from the damaged caused and receiving services of Canberra where they are sending teams in to help with a range of problems.