THE federal government’s Commissioner for Threatened Species, Gregory Andrews, visited Coochiemudlo Island this week and liked it so much, he wants to bring his family back.
Mr Andrews stood in for Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg at the unveiling of interpretive signage at the island’s Melaleuca Wetlands reserve, a project funded by the government’s National Landcare Program.
Mr Andrews said Coochie was unusual in that it had 700 residents and about half of those were Coastcare members, the highest membership of any community.
“This is a place of extraordinary wildlife,’’ he said. “I’ve just seen a pair of pied oyster catchers. They are endangered in NSW and Victoria but are doing quite well here because there are no foxes on the island.’’
Mr Andrews said the downside was that everywhere he went, he saw the footprints of domestic dogs and cats.
“It’s a bit concerning that the work of Coastcare has been eroded by people who do not heed signs about responsible pet ownership,’’ he said.
Mr Andrews said it might be that owners were not aware that when they let cats and dogs roam in such an environmentally sensitive place, they had an enormous impact on wildlife.
Pets disturbed and preyed on beach-nesting oyster catchers and constantly forced the endangered bar-tailed godwit to fly away from their roosts.
The godwit migrated to Moreton Bay from arctic regions and needed to feed and rest undisturbed before starting the long journey back.
“This little bird can fly further than the Airbus A380,’’ he said.
Mr Andrews called for feral cats to be removed from the island and for more work to be put into educating locals about responsible pet ownership.
More work also was needed to remove garden escapees like asparagus fern and mother-of-millions which were out-competing native species.
The project he launched, Melaleuca Wetlands – Promoting Ramsar Environmental and Cultural Values, was set up by Coochiemudlo Island Coastcare.
Coastcare was helped by WetlandCare Australia, Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation, SEQ Catchments and Redland City councillor Lance Hewlett through his community infrastructure funding.
Coastcare developed similar signage to that at Myora Springs on North Stradbroke Island.
“Australia is a large and rich country and we can have sustainable development and avoid extinctions if we focus on key threats like invasive species and pet ownership,’’ Mr Andrews said.