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Curtis Island kill-off to save rare animal from wipe-out

ERADICATION: Authorities are clearing Curtis Island of wild pigs, dogs, and cattle.
ERADICATION: Authorities are clearing Curtis Island of wild pigs, dogs, and cattle. Contributed

THEY may have almost been extinct but Yellow Chats are making a come back.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service operations support manager Mark Read said the Yellow Chat's population growth had tripled in five years on Curtis Island.

"The bird has been listed as endangered on national level, so it's a bird under a lot of pressure," Mr Read said.

The Capricorn Yellow Chat needs to be saved from extinction.
Photo Contributed
The Capricorn Yellow Chat needs to be saved from extinction. Photo Contributed Contributed


With nine birds left on Curtis Island in 2011, the number had grown to 35 as of last year.

"Once we removed grazing pressure and the damage of feral pigs, we've seen a bounce back of the marine plains and population recovery of Yellow Chats," Mr Read said.

"It's a great success story." As a wildlife biologist by trade, Mr Read said the habitat combination Yellow Chats live in, is quite unique and they only live in a few spots across the county.

"Curtis Island has got that unique combination of habitat these birds are specific to ... which is essentially marine plains," he said.

ERADICATION: Authorities continue to kill-off the remaining rogue cattle and pigs threatening the existence of Curtis Island's native wildlife. Photo: Australian Marine Conservation Society
ERADICATION: Authorities continue to kill-off the remaining rogue cattle and pigs threatening the existence of Curtis Island's native wildlife. Photo: Australian Marine Conservation Society Contributed

With cows and feral pigs posing a threat to the habitat, Mr Read said the threat had lessened, resulting in the bird's population bouncing back.

"The cattle were grazing on the grass the birds relied upon to nest in and the feral pigs were destroying everything, like they do, so there was no habitat there to support Yellow Chats," he said.

The eradication program was run by Queensland Parks and Wildlife and became intensive in 2011.

Mr Read said there were still some cows and feral pigs left on Curtis Island which would continue to be eradicate.

Yellow Chats are important to the function of marine life, where they feed on insects according to Mr Read.

"They're considered to be a pretty iconic species and they're so tightly associated with the area," he said.

Mr Read said although Yellow Chat population is bouncing back, the process isn't over yet.

"The aim is not to think we've got to 35 birds and our job's done ... it's to continue working in the area and support the habitat and monitor birds," he said. "We don't want to be responsible for the extinction of birds we could save."

Topics:  conservation curtis island extinction gladstone gladstone region nature tourism wildlife


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