Return to 1616 Conservation Project
The Dirk Hartog Island Return to 1616 project holds immense historical and cultural significance
When first visited by Dirk Hartog on 25 October 1616, the island was in pristine condition but it has experienced significant changes to its ecology since that time. Sheep and goats changed the vegetation, their grazing habits and trampling reducing the food and shelter available for native species. Feral cat predation added to the pressures on native species and made it impossible for some to survive.
Ten species of small mammals and marsupials, and one small bird did not survive the changes to the island’s ecology. These include the Shark Bay bandicoot, chuditch, mulgara, dibbler, greater stick-nest rat, desert mouse, Shark Bay mouse, heath mouse, woylie, boodie and the western grasswren. They will be returned to the national park as part of the Dirk Hartog Island National Park Return to 1616 Ecological Restoration Project along with two additional species – the banded and rufous hare-wallabies. These two additional species were highly likely to have once lived on the island and are included in the project in order to improve their conservation status.
Return to 1616 brings hope for these species. Habitats are recovering with sheep declared eradicated in June 2016 and goats in November 2017. The feral animal eradication program was completed in October 2018 with eradication of feral cats declared. Over the next twelve years the lost species and two additional marsupials are being translocated to Dirk Hartog Island.
Although fauna reconstruction officially began when feral cat eradication was declared, there was a pilot release of the two hare-wallaby species in August/September 2017. Twelve each of the rufous hare-wallaby and banded hare-wallaby were translocated from Bernier and Dorre Islands.
Monitoring with the aid of radio and GPS collars fitted prior to release showed the hare-wallabies to be doing well and breeding, with eight joeys observed in May 2018, in addition to eight previously recorded.
The first full-scale translocation of hare-wallabies involved the release of 90 banded and 50 rufous hare-wallabies from Bernier and Dorre Islands Nature Reserve onto Dirk Hartog Island in October 2018 with another 49 rufous hare-wallabies the following year.
You can help to protect the these animals when visiting the island by watching the island protection video before you leave home.
Take a virtual tour of the Return to 1616 project and Dirk Hartog Island National Park from the comfort of your own home computer or mobile phone, or upload this link (bit.ly/ReturnTo1616) to your VR goggles – to enjoy the full experience.