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Dogs Help in Pest Eradication

Dogs have helped eradicate pests from Macquarie Island and save the native wildlife. They are part of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project, run by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.

The pest-fighting dogs and their 11 handlers brave sub-Antarctic winters to patrol the island and eliminate pests. Just a few years ago, introduced rats and rabbits were destroying vegetation, ruining wildlife breeding sites and causing erosion. They were also eating penguin eggs and killing young chicks.

The Federal Government responded with a $26 million pest eradication program that has produced remarkable results.

A rabbit population of 100,000 a few years ago has now been reduced to virtually nil, with not a single rabbit sighting in the last few months. Rats and mice have also not been seen in over a year and many nests containing dead rodents have been found.

Labradors and springer spaniels have played a crucial part in the program, to help sniff out pests and their nests. The dogs and their owners establish strong bonds in the rugged and challenging environment, explained Stephen Horn, the eradication team’s leader.

“You spend a huge part of your day with the animal.”

He said that the workers and their dogs are out to eradicate pests for four weeks at a time, living in huts. They come back to the Macquarie Island station for just four or five days to rest before heading out again.

However, the project has been successful that it may reach its end soon.