King Island Threatened Species: What should we do? Have your say...
Outcomes from the the Wings on King Open Community Forum - April, 2018
Over fifty people attended the Wings on King Open Forum on 28th April, to learn about King Island’s threatened bird species and discuss their future.
Warmly welcomed by our Deputy Mayor, Jim Cooper, we began by watching the charming new documentary – The Desperate Plight of the Orange-bellied Parrot. This was not a ‘doom and gloom’ documentary although it did document the plight of this charismatic little bird. It was a thought provoking beginning to Our Conversation.
Kate Ravich opened The Conversation, emphasising that the 4 known endangered bird species on King Island are unique to this island and live nowhere else in the world.
The Panel then shared their thoughts and values regarding Threatened Species generally and the important issues we need to consider. These comments led to many questions and a very real, thoughtful and wide-ranging discussion that included input from the 5 children present.
This discussion ranged through what a recovery program might look like and can they work; cost and funding; the impacts on King Island if we do or don’t try and conserve species including impacts if either or both the KI Brown Thornbill and KI Scrubtit are declared extinct in the future.
Effectively there are two issues:
1) Emergency action for both the KI Scrubtit and the KI Brown Thornbill
2) Preventing further extinctions
We already have two other KI subspecies – the Black Currawong (Black Jay) and Green Rosella - listed as Vulnerable. We don’t yet know the status of others.
Further, if we do manage to recover our Scrubtit and/or Brown Thornbill populations, where will they live? Do we want them confined, as they are now, to a few remote corners of the island or do we want them to fulfil the dream of one of the children present who ‘wants to see a Scrubtit’ – i.e. return them to accessible woodlands where they once would have been.
This discussion bought up the issue of land clearing and the negative impact it has on King Island as a whole, ecologically and economically.
While individual land managers may perceive benefits from clearing, it has long-term impacts on the whole island. The island’s tree cover is steadily declining and becoming increasingly fragmented. This creates big issues for wildlife, but it also lowers the appeal of the island for eco-tourism – a burgeoning new industry for KI. As well, unprotected pastures increase stress on commercial animals, increasing their feed demand through loss of shelter from wind, rain and heat thus diminishing KI’s ‘clean and green’ quality product image.
That KI community supports an attempt to recover the King Island Scrubtit and gather important information on the elusive KI Brown Thornbill population.
a) We need a much better understanding of how many and where these species are living to inform an Action Plan, so this action will consist of:
- a systematic search across the island for both species;
- the establishment of an Emergency Action Team
- development of a translocation strategy (KI Scrubtit) if required
- Funding for this will be sought by BirdLife Australia
- KINRMG will form a community support group to assist with on-the- ground practicalities and keeping the community informed.
Watch this space. Hands up if you would like to assist.
b) At present, our thornbill and scrubtit are reliant on our reserves. More funding and staff are needed to support the management of these reserves especially in relation to fire. This is PWS jurisdiction and the discussion didn’t address potential community involvement.
2) Preventing further extinctions:
All agreed that while this is a difficult subject to confront, it is essential that we do so. It is increasingly clear that the overall quality of the island is diminishing; indicated by the presence of e.g. soil salinity, wee incursions such as gorse and ragwort, loss of tree cover and the declining populations of our threatened species.
It was felt that while the ramifications of King Island losing our wood and
scrublands is not well understood on or off the Island, loss through land
clearing is occurring bit by bit and unrelentingly. This is a major issue that the whole
community needs to address, as the impacts are wide-ranging and island-wide.
While there are many good land managers on King Island, there are also
those who see head per hectare as the only measuring point for their
property, seemingly without recognising the long-term impacts that the loss of tree cover has
on the land itself, other industries on the island or on native species.
Another complicating factor is that the pattern of land use is
changing, with fewer larger properties becoming established often by
land holders who aren’t engaged with or interested in the island as a whole.
This then is the conversation that King Islanders need to have.
What do we want King Island to become?
Do we want a big open paddock or do we want a sustainable island that really is ‘clean and green? ‘
Do we care and if we do, what are we prepared to do about it?
This Forum has begun this conversation. We hope you will continue it.
Many thanks to everyone who attended and especially the Panel who consisted of: Jim Cooper, Deputy Mayor and land manager; Ken Chapman, KI Tourism; James Hill, land manager; Shelley Graham, Tas Parks and Wildlife; Margaret Bennett, BirdLife Tasmania; Mark Holdsworth, Endangered Species Consultant and OBP Recovery Team; Dr Jenny Lau, Manager Preventing Extinctions Program, BirdLife Australia.
STOP PRESS: While Mark Holdsworth was here, he searched for the KI Scrubtit and found they still exist in the three known isolated populations. However, it appears that one of the populations has declined.
Photos of Panellists by Nubar Ghazarian: James Hill, Margaret Bennett and Shelley Graham; Deputy Mayor Jim Cooper; Mark Holdsworth; Kate Ravich