Application for Scientific Permit – Available for Public Comment
Public comment on the following application for a Scientific Research (Fauna) Permit is open until 5 June 2018.
Applicant: University of Tasmania, Department of Zoology
Species/Taxon: Tasmanian native-hen (target species), Bare-nose wombat (non-target), Forester kangaroo (non-target), Bennett’s wallaby (non-target), Tasmanian pademelon (non-target), Tasmanian devil (non-target)
Location: Darlington, Maria Island National Park
Title of research: Effects of habitat quality, predation and exploitation competition on population viability in Tasmanian native-hens.
Aim of project: Our project aims to: 1) assess the impact of high predation rate on native-hens’ recruitment 2) evaluate the degree of competition for resources (food and shelter) with the bare-nose wombat and large macropods, 3) determine the importance of freshwater’s presence as a variable initiating Tasmanian native-hen’s establishment on territories.
Justification: Maria Island presents simultaneously limited resources for herbivores (competition) and high predation rates for ground-dwelling birds due to Tasmanian devils’ presence. It is an interesting case study to investigate aspects of vulnerability for the Tasmanian native-hen. Quantifying their response to different environmental variabilities and constraints will provide fundamental knowledge for their conservation by helping forecasting population dynamics and persistence under several long-term threatening scenarios (such as climate change, habitat loss, and invasive predators) using modelling techniques.
Maximum likely numbers of individuals involved: Native-hens’ population on Maria Island has been estimated to 60 individuals. Moreover, as the survey will take place during their breeding season, it is likely to involve a maximum of 80 adults and young per year.
Activities undertaken and methods:
• The project will use six fenced plots to provide a supplementation of natural food (grass) by preventing wombats and large macropods to graze in. They are 6 × 2 m2, about 1.5m high. The mesh size will be large enough (20 × 20 cm) to allow native-hens and small animals entry. The fences will be made of reinforcing mesh (rebar) supplemented by chicken wire on the top and will be buried of about 20 cm deep. These plots will be watered regularly to improve the grass productivity.
• To test the importance of freshwater to initiate native-hens’ establishment on new territories, six automatic waterers will be set up at existing territories’ vicinity.
• The territories (potential and existing) will be monitored every 7 to 10 days for 2-3 days but there will be no contact with the birds. Observations will record native-hens abundance, egg laying, egg hatching, and chick survival on all territories (about 15) throughout the breeding seasons (from August to March, years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020).
• One to two wildlife cameras will be set up on fenced plots and waterers to survey animal occupancy.
Fate of animals: No direct interaction will be undertaken with animals. At the end of the project, all fenced plots and waterers will be removed to restore the area to its natural state.
Likely impact on species involved (including any by-catch): Fencing areas is a common technique in ecology for animal studies and has not been reported as a potentially harmful or distressful for animals. The only anticipated impacts on the non-target species are exclusion from grazing small areas, and potential use of the drinking water we supply, i.e. benign.