The "Bush" Capital of Australia, Canberra, is developing a range of environmental projects that will be icons in the future. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is slowly recovering from the devastation of the 2003 bushfires and two new projects are underway: Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary and the Canberra International Arboretum.
I've written a little about the Mulligans Flat project before. It has an obvious focus on feral animals with the recent completion of an 11 km feral-proof fence. The rangers have begun the task of ridding the sanctuary of cats, foxes, rabbits and excess kangaroos (the last are herded out of the sanctuary). The job is almost done, with rangers Peter Mills and Grant Woodbridge trying to determine if they have dispatched the last fox. They estimate there were 8 or 9 foxes within the fenced area at the closing of the sanctuary and most likely all have been successfully baited. Baits have stopped disappearing now but that isn't absolute proof of eradication - the guys are using remote cameras near likely fox habitat and the "super bait" of young rabbit to try and determine if the last fox has been eradicated.
Even in a relatively small sanctuary of about 450 hectares, the rangers found no sign of the carcasses of the 8 or 9 foxes they estimated were successfully baited. This is normal for fox programs, but people are always surprised that we don't find more bodies.
The eradication of predators will pave the way for the reintroduction of the first native animal, ironically a bird, the brown treecreeper. It's a vulnerable species that is locally extinct and was in the area until about a decade ago. With protection from feral predators, hopefully the treecreepers will be successfully re-established.
Canberra being the fairly small city that it is, I happened to run into the Territory's Chief Minister Jon Stanhope on the way to the last Mulligans Flat committee meeting. He has a particular interest in all these environmental projects and has kept in close contact with developments. The Arboretum is something I just drive by and note the progress as it's developing, whereas Mulligans Flat has a well-known "feral" component, so I've got involved. But it turned out the Chief Minister's first question was "how do we get rid of hares?". Apparently hares are costing the Arboretum tens of thousands of dollars in replanting and the need for bigger tree guards. The hares are happy to chomp on rare trees as much as any other. Even a newly planted forest needs a feral protection plan.
Posted by Tony Peacock, founder of 'Feral Thoughts'