Throughout October, AWC ecologists conducted a series of translocations of three nationally threatened mammal species from islands in Shark Bay, Western Australia.Read more...
Faure Island is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, one of only 16 natural sites in Australia listed as being of outstanding universal value. It is surrounded by the Shark Bay Marine Park, nestled in an azure sea between the Peron Peninsula and mainland Western Australia.
Faure Island is critically important for the conservation of Australia’s threatened mammals because it is entirely free of feral predators (foxes and cats) and feral herbivores. Working in partnership with the WA Government, AWC eradicated all feral animals soon after the purchase of Faure Island. At the time, Faure Island became the third largest island in the world from which cats had been eradicated.
Since declaring the island “feral-free”, AWC has successfully established populations of four nationally threatened mammals: Boodies (Burrowing Bettongs), Banded Hare-wallabies, Western Barred Bandicoots and Shark Bay Mice.
Located in one of Australia’s richest marine regions, Faure Island is a spectacular sight: its coastline features russet cliffs, mangrove-lined lagoons and mudflats while the undulating interior is a mosaic of heaths and shrubs which provide ideal habitat for mammals. The coastal wetlands attract internationally significant shorebird populations, while the adjacent waters host three species of threatened sea turtle and the iconic dugong.
Faure Island is critically important for the conservation of Australia’s threatened mammals because it is feral-free: there are no feral cats, foxes or feral herbivores.
In this feral-free environment, AWC has successfully reintroduced four threatened mammals. The population of the Burrowing Bettong (Boodie) is estimated at around 20,000 animals (at least half the global population). There are also healthy populations of Banded Hare-wallaby, Western Barred Bandicoot and Shark Bay Mice.
The island is also home to 36 reptile species and at least 127 bird species. The sanctuary provides a key breeding area for many seabirds, and supports one of the biggest Pied Cormorant rookeries in the region. Far Eastern Curlews, listed as a Critically Endangered species nationally, are reliably seen during the annual shorebird surveys. In addition, three species of migratory shorebirds are now at populations that qualify Faure Island as a RAMSAR ‘internationally important staging site’ - the Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey-tailed Tattler and Red-necked Stint. In 2016, nearly 6,000 Red-necked Stints were recorded, qualifying Faure Island as a RAMSAR ‘internationally important wetland’.
The region is also vitally important for threatened marine animals including Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead Turtles, all of which can be seen in the crystal clear waters off Faure Island. The iconic Dugong is also frequently spotted, as are large schools of Tiger Sharks.
AWC is the only conservation organisation to measure, in a robust scientific manner, the ecological health of a network of sanctuaries in Australia. At Faure Island, we carry out annual field surveys (400 live trap nights, 500 scat and tracking plot nights, 51 bird surveys at 17 sites, 41 km of spotlighting transects and 15 vegetation surveys) to measure a suite of ecological health indicators including:
Our performance against these indicators provides rigorous scientific data which enables us to track the ecological health of Faure Island.
Boodies are the most reproductive and boisterous of the species reintroduced to Faure Island. Since the original reintroduction in 2002, the population has increased to around 20,000 at the end of 2017. Annual surveys indicate that adult Boodies are of a healthy weight and the percentage of young animals in the population has remained high.
The science and land management program at Faure Island includes:
Faure Island is an emergent portion of the ‘Faure Sill’, a sandbar overlaying sandstone that crosses the eastern gulf of Shark Bay from Peron Peninsula to the mainland. Interestingly, it is this sandbar that has created the vast areas of sandy hypersaline shallows that support the famous Stromatolites of Shark Bay.
The island consists of three major landforms, each characterised by distinctive vegetation:
For over 100 years, Faure Island was operated as a pastoral station, carrying sheep and goats, until it was acquired by AWC in 1999.
The island’s vegetation reflects its semi-arid climate: rainfall varies greatly from year to year, but averages about 220 mm. Detailed mapping carried out during 2009 identified 30 habitats on Faure Island but, in broad terms, the island consists of undulating sandy plains and dunes covered with open acacia shrublands and interdunal ‘birridas’ (seasonally flooded, saline, clay pans). The birridas are fringed by samphire and saltbush species.
Some stretches of the shore are bordered by steep cliffs while others have red or white dunes, often covered by beach spinifex (Spinifex longifolius). A series of sand spits enclose shallow lagoons that support regionally significant mangrove communities (Avicennia marina).
The flora of the Faure Island Sanctuary is a subset of that found on the nearby mainland on Peron Peninsula, dominated by arid zone species and intermingled with more temperate species. Over 140 species of native vascular plants have been found and many more species are expected to be recorded on the island.
Faure Island is staffed by AWC’s south-west Operations and Science team, together with other visiting staff, volunteers and interns.