Helping to protect fragile populations

A greater stick-nest rat. Photo credit DBCA

New native animal populations that have been returned to Dirk Hartog Island are reported to be doing well. Above average winter rainfall over the last two years has been helpful, promoting good plant regeneration, food and shelter.

The Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) says the populations are still small and fragile, needing as much protection as possible, so it was of great concern earlier this year to find dog prints close to the release site of one of the reintroduced species, the greater stick-nest rat.

Dogs are not permitted in Western Australia’s national parks and DBCA says this is particularly important on Dirk Hartog Island. It takes only seconds for a dog to have a serious impact on a small, newly introduced population of precious, threatened native animals.

The Dirk Hartog Island National Park Return to 1616 is an ecological restoration project of international significance involving many scientists, conservationists and volunteers. An important element opening the way for the staged reintroduction of native species was the removal of introduced herbivores as well as the eradication of feral cats.

Native animals often use vehicle tracks to get around and, as well as complying with the NO DOGS rule, visitors can help keep these vulnerable little creatures safe by avoiding driving between dusk and dawn.