IntoLongValley.jpgPetaurus Press

Feral animals on Phillip Island

© Copyright Peter Coyne.  No part of this page may be republished without permission.

 ISBN 9780980652802






Before the feral animals were released on Phillip Island as a supplementary source of food for the settlement on Norfolk Island and as a sporting diversion for the officers of the settlement, the island retained its natural sub-tropical vegetation and native fauna.  That began to change soon after the British government established colonies at Port Jackson in New South Wales and on Norfolk Island, both in early 1788.  Harvesting of birds from Phillip Island for feathers and possibly food began within a couple of years, but the first disastrous action was release of pigs on the island in 1793.







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The pigs rapidly multiplied, eating the more palatable vegetation and no doubt ripping up the abundant petrel burrows to eat the adults, eggs or chicks.  The island must have started deteriorating rapidly.  As if the pigs were not bad enough, the settlers had introduced goats and rabbits to Phillip Island by 1830 as well.  Without active management the feral animal populations expanded to the maximum capacity of the island and the loss of its vegetation and soil was assured, along with the loss of many animal and plant species, some of which were endemic to Phillip Island.  Accounts from around 1860 describe the island as already looking much as it did in 1979, with almost no vegetation apart from a few remnant trees.










The pigs and goats appear to have died out when there was inadequate food to support a viable population but the rabbits survived, preventing the growth of vegetation and thus allowing the unrestricted erosion to continue (as the background photo shows).  That began to change in 1979 – see the link below.

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Eradicating the rabbits







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Table of contents

Rabbit eradication

To before and after photographs

To landscape photographs

About the book

© Copyright Peter Coyne.  No part of this page may be republished without permission.

Wildlife photographs