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Fox-free Phillip Island to play key role in bandicoot conservation

Fox-free Phillip Island to play key role in bandicoot conservation
September 22, 2017

Phillip Island Nature Parks’ long term goal to create an environment free from the destruction wrought by the European red fox has become a reality with the announcement that Phillip Island is now fox-free.

When Phillip Island Nature Parks launched its Fox Eradication Program in 2006, the vision was to protect the Island’s biodiversity and wildlife, paving the way for the preservation of the critically endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

Anticipating the release of Bandicoot populations, Phillip Island Nature Parks Chief Executive Catherine Basterfield, explains “the implementation of this comprehensive control program has resulted in the reduction of the fox population from an estimated 150 individuals in 2006 to undetectable levels today, with no physical evidence found in over two years.

“While we are confident we have removed foxes from Phillip Island, we will continue our robust monitoring program into the future to ensure they do not re-establish on the Island.

“Not only does this landmark achievement protect the island’s iconic wildlife such as penguins and shearwaters, it also provides Phillip Island with a unique opportunity to save a native animal from extinction in Victoria.

“The Eastern Barred Bandicoot has been wiped out on the mainland by foxes and habitat loss, and now we can give this marsupial its best chance of survival by releasing it onto Phillip Island.”

This extraordinary achievement has been made possible by the long term contributions from Zoos Victoria and the Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Team who have worked to preserve the species in fenced and captive environments until suitable fox-free environments became available.

Eastern Barred Bandicoots (EBBs) were released on Churchill Island in 2015 by Phillip Island Nature Parks, Zoos Victoria and members of the EBB Recovery Team as a trial for future releases onto other fox-free islands.

The EBBs on Churchill Island increased from 20 to about 120 in two years before the population stopped growing and stabilised around this number.

The Churchill Island trial has demonstrated that EBBs can successfully establish in island environments and have positive impacts such as reduced soil compaction, and improved nutrient and water infiltration, with no observed negative effects.

Phillip Island Nature Parks is planning a release of Eastern Barred Bandicoots onto the Summerland Peninsula on Phillip Island in late October, with support from the EBB Recovery Team.

Zoos Victoria Chief Executive Dr. Jenny Gray stated “these unique locations will provide a safe haven for the Critically Endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoot.

“This marks a considerable milestone for the species and provides us with confidence for the release on Phillip Island. We look forward to watching the population of Eastern Barred Bandicoots grow and continuing to work with our multiple valued partners to save the species from extinction.”

The Nature Parks is conducting a series of Community Information Sessions throughout the upcoming school holidays, with details available at www.penguins.org.au/bandicoots.

Phillip Island Nature Parks acknowledges the generous funding support provided by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust for the EBB program, and from the Ian Potter Foundation and Penguin Foundation for the Fox Eradication Program.

The EBB Recovery Team includes representatives from Conservation Volunteers Australia, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre, National Trust of Australia, Parks Victoria, Phillip Island Nature Parks, the University of Melbourne, Tiverton Property Partnering and Zoos Victoria.

Eastern Barred Bandicoot images courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks.

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