Over the last 15 years the program has seen many successes and some failures. The removal of thousands of stock led to an almost immediate recovery of the native vegetation. The total or near eradication of cattle, sheep, goats and foxes on the peninsula, has resulted in dramatic changes to the local animal and plant populations. However, three species of ferals – rabbits, mice and cats remain, and although control measures such as poisoning and trapping have reduced numbers of the latter, eradication is not possible at this stage.
As Project Eden looks to the future, it will continue to initiate and trial management techniques as it strives for better results from its reintroduction and feral control programs. Working with students, universities and other research and conservation groups, Project Eden is committed to helping find the answers to Australia’s complex conservation problems.
Project Eden and Dirk Hartog Island
With the purchase of Dirk Hartog Island for conservation purposes by the Western Australian Government a new phase of Project Eden will soon be underway. If complete cat eradication can be achieved on this large island, some of the smaller species that will always struggle to survive with even low level cat presence on Peron, will have a new refuge to call home in Shark Bay.
Australia has no native hoofed animals. The cattle, sheep and goats introduced by the European pastoralists tore apart Peron Peninsula’s fragile soils and stripped or uprooted vegetation, degrading natural habitat. Since the removal of more than 30,000 head of stock, much of the vegetation and habitat has recovered. Acacia shrubs in particular have grown much more densely, and seedlings now get the chance to mature, without thousands of hungry mouths ripping them out as soon as they appear. Delicate annuals, creepers and grasses that were favoured succulent foods for stock, are now making a slow comeback in the park, helping keep the dry soil together in summer and shrouding the bush in colourful flowers in spring.
Peron Peninsula 1992
Satellite image taken before most stock was
removed from the peninsula.
Peron Peninsula 2002
After a decade without stock the recovery to the
vegetation on the peninsula is obvious.
(© DEC/ Babs and Bert Wells)
Since feral animal control began in the early 1990s, mammal and reptile populations have increased. Before 1995, echidnas were rarely seen on the Peron Peninsula. Now the adults and young are regularly sighted, and you can see their tracks all over the national park. Many species of lizard have increased both in physical size and number. Look out for lots of racehorse goannas, bobtail skinks, thorny devils and bearded dragons basking on the roads in summer. The threatened woma python has been breeding well, with many juveniles and adults seen on roads and tracks. Even larger fauna such as euros (a type of kangaroo) and emus are benefiting from reduced predation on their joeys and chicks. The reintroduced bilbies are doing well but Project Eden is working to improve conditions still further so that other locally extinct species, such as bandicoots, red-tailed phascogales, chuditch and Shark Bay mice, can also be reintroduced.