Touching down in Norfolk Island I’m instantly hit with two thoughts: 1) How does an island so small house so much biodiversity? 2) How stunning is this landscape?
At just 3655 hectares, you can drive from one side of Norfolk to the other in about 15 minutes. Yet, the island is home to a whopping 58 threatened flora and fauna species, many of which are only found on this small patch of earth.
Norfolk has been named one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world. One that’s worth protecting.
Majestic Norfolk Pines dominate the landscape across Norfolk. At Anson Bay.
Enter Wild Mob, who has been working on Norfolk for the past 3 years in close partnership with local communities and other global organisations. Our focus is on protecting and monitoring Norfolk’s endemic species and the habitats they call home, through weed and pest control, debris clean up and species surveys.
This trip, we’re here for a week. Each day, volunteers are committed to a morning of conservation work, with the afternoons taken to explore the islands beautiful landscape and rich cultural history.
The first few days, we’re working on rat control in the Anson Bay Area, about 300 hectares adjacent to the National Park. Rats devastate the ecosystem here by eating the seeds, eggs and young of endemic and threatened species, including the green parrot, whose numbers had dwindled to just 10 confirmed females only 4 years ago.
While it’s incredibly difficult to eradicate rats completely on Norfolk, it is possible to control areas. In a controlled area, local landowners work together to eradicate rats thorough coordinated baiting.
This is then maintained though bait fences, rows of bait stations that sit close together to block off large areas from rats. The idea is to extend the bait fence-controlled areas bit by bit, while an eradication program is nutted out.
We check and rebait the fences around Anson Bay. We can also track how effective we’re being via geographical monitoring. We see where the rats are coming from and alter the fences accordingly.
We use GPS to check and monitor rat activity across the bait fences
As we’re leaving the regenerating forest, we hear the familiar “kek kek kek” of a certain green local. Directly above us, two green parrots watch us as we move through the forest. It’s the first the first time our project leader Derek has ever seen one in this controlled patch.
Recent estimates put the population at about 400 individuals. We smile in the knowledge that these beautiful parrots are finding new homes across Norfolk once more.
A touch of history
When a brief spurt of rain hits on Saturday, we have a chance to soak up some Norfolk history. We explore the historical site of Kingston, Norfolk’s original penal settlement, now a series of museums that tell the tales of shipwrecks, mutinies and convicts.
By the time we reach pristine Emily Bay at the end of the site, the weather has cleared once for us once more.
In the summer months, Emily Bay is the place to be for local families. Games are played, food is shared and afternoons are relaxed away next to its pristine shores. Turtles make frequent appearances on its coral reefs.
Misty Emily Bay, a local watering hole in the summer months
On Sunday afternoon, we’re invited to lunch at Norfolk Project Leader Marg and her husband Ken Christian’s place. Ken is a descendant of the Pitcairn people, who settled in Norfolk when the penal colony closed. Together, Marg and Ken’s knowledge of Norfolk is unmatched!
They fill us with delicious food and stories of Norfolk’s flora, fauna, history and people. Nourishing on all fronts!
Bird is the word
Midweek, we turn our focus to species monitoring, conducting formal bird surveys in the national park.
Walking through the forest, we take down the species, number of individuals and GPS location of each sighting. The idea is to monitor bird population trends over time, not determine absolute numbers.
Monitoring like this is vital to any conservation initiative, to make sure you’re on the right track (and change tack if you’re not).
After 4 hours of surveying the stunning rainforest, we spot more than 50 individual birds and 5 endemic species. We’re even lucky enough to see 5 green parrots, 3 of which we come across feeding on the tack about 3 metres ahead of us!
A curious green parrot watches us from the pine tops
That night, Derek makes us his famous rogan josh and homemade naan for dinner. There’s not a spec left on anyone’s plates. We follow up with a few plun (Norfolk for banana) picked from a nearby tree.
Plastic, not so fantastic
On Thursday, we traverse down the massive slopes of Anson Bay early to clean up marine debris washed on the beach.
We spread out and get to work, picking up the remains of consumer products past. Labels, wrappers, plastic bags, endless bottle tops with familiar insignia: Nestle, Nescafé, Coca Cola, Vegemite.
We work for 2 hours, tipping bag after bag of plastic into an empty silo bin until it’s full. The pieces of car, chair and mattress we find won’t even fit.
Marine debris on Anson Bay
It’s heart-breaking work, and makes us all highly conscious of the thoughtless consumption and waste habits of humans. We all vow never to buy another plastic bottle again, acutely aware that plastic’s journey only begins when we throw it in the bin.
A Wild week!
All of a sudden, the week draws to an end. We all agree we’ve experienced what the locals call “Norfolk Blur”. It feels as if we’ve seen so much of and learnt so much about Norfolk. But at the same time, it feels like we’ve been here a matter of hours.
We take off from Norfolk with cameras full of incredible memories, new friends, and the knowledge that we’ve left the world a little bit better.