A Macquarie Island beach
Image by Wikipedia

Recently, we get to hear about a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site which has been saved from the invasive species of rabbits and rats. The island is set to resume it's original form. The island is Macquarie Island that is located in the vast waters that stretch between Australia and Antarctica. It was listed as a Natural Heritage Site in 1997 as it was a unique place of it's kind on this Earth.

Approximately 21 miles long and 3.4 miles wide, the island is the only place in the world where rocks from the earth's mantle are actively exposed above sea level.

The birdlife that thrives on this island is also extraordinary. The populations of penguins (including the endemic royal penguin), albatrosses, petrels, and prions make this island to be the greatest concentration of seabirds in the world.

Just like all other islands on this Earth, sailors during the 19th century brought rats, cats, mice, and rabbits ashore which decimated the population of the endemic species and insects. All this seriously threatened the existing order of vegetation on the island.

Melissa Houghton was brought ashore as a dog handler in an effort by Tasmania and Australia to eradicate the invasive mammals. The programme was launched in 2007.

By Houghton's arrival, the island has already been eliminated from feral cats with a decrease in the number of rodents too. Poisonous bait drops had been dropped on the island to serve the purpose. Rodents highly welcomed this food bait in the winters thus decimating their numbers gradually.

By 2011, hunters with team dogs came into work on the existing population of the invasive species. The effort recoiled in success. The situation was so much terrible for the penguins as the constant rabbit borrowing or the cats and rodents together killed the herbaceous stock on the island thus leaving no alternative but alone slough the limited soil down. Even Houghton was taken aback by the developments brought about by this invasive species.

In the year 2014, the team worked to locate the rabbit population on the island. Since then, the island has rebounded greatly.

Native plants are seen growing everywhere. The surrounding is again retrieving it's nutrients. No rodents have been since 2014.

Island eradication is one of the best-performing conservation strategies employed worldwide by humans. Islands from Macquarie to the Galapagos are now free from inducted European pests. Macquarie also gets included in the list of the islands that have been eradicated since 2000 with over 800 invasive species.

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