FACT SHEET AND PROJECT UPDATES
Updated 2016 and 2017
This project involves practical action to improve the long-term viability of the Cocos buff-banded rail (Gallirallus Philippensis andrewsi) through improved monitoring of populations.
End of Project Update (2-year project)
Overview of progress
- This project is now complete and all key outcomes and outputs have been delivered, as follows.
- A comprehensive camera monitoring system was established on Horsburgh Island, to monitor the second insurance population of Cocos buff-banded rails translocated from Pulu Keeling National Park. Camera images were inspected monthly to gather data on presence, recruitment, behaviour and dispersal. The cameras also functioned as a biosecurity system, to detect any incursion of introduced species such as cats and rats.
- Monitoring results show that the reintroduced Cocos buff-banded rails have dispersed across different habitats on Horsburgh Island, as well as self-dispersing to other nearby islands, including Direction Island and Home Island.
- Monitoring also confirmed that Horsburgh Island and Direction Island have remained free from invasive species such as rats and cats.
- Transect surveys were undertaken several times throughout the life of the project to monitor population size. By mid-2016 the Horsburgh population was estimated to have grown to 97 rails, up from the initial founder population of 39 in 2013.
- This project has contributed to the National Recovery Plan for the Cocos Buff-banded Rail by reducing the risk of species extinction and enhancing knowledge about the species ecology.
- Monitoring of the original founder population on Pulu Keeling will be ongoing as part of the national park’s management.
Overview of progress
- A camera monitoring system was established on Horsburgh Island and results show the reintroduced Cocos buff-banded rails are dispersing across different habitats on the island.
- From October 2014 to May 2015 survey results show the population of rails had more than doubled, from 54 to more than 100. A follow up survey in October 2015 showed the population had remained at this size.
- Monitoring shows the birds have independently dispersed to Direction Island. Monitoring also shows invasive species such as rats and cats have not been found at either Horsburgh Island or Direction Island.
- Monthly inspections of camera images at Horsburgh Island will continue and another rail survey is slated for April 2016.
- Invasive species will continue to be monitored to ensure rails have the best chance of survival.
Through a $15,000 funding boost, the Threatened Species Commissioner is supporting recovery of the Cocos buff-banded rail, a ground-dwelling bird found only in Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
A comprehensive remote camera and monitoring network will be established on Horsburgh Island, to monitor the endangered Cocos buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis andrewsi) and its threats. These ground-dwelling birds were translocated to Horsburgh in 2013 to provide an insurance population of this rare species. Because of Horsburgh’s isolation, remote sensing gear is needed to keep a close eye on the birds and make sure they are thriving in between visits by park rangers.
$15,000, adding to the funding provided by Parks Australia through Pulu Keeling National Park.
This work will be done by Parks Australia, through Pulu Keeling National Park. Horsburgh Island is owned by the Cocos community, and the Shire of Cocos (Keeling) Islands is a key partner in the translocation project.
Once widespread across the Cocos group, by the 1980s the Cocos buff-banded rail only existed on a single uninhabited island. The entire island is protected as Pulu Keeling National Park, but this endangered bird was vulnerable to unexpected events because it only existed in one place. An insurance population was needed to guard against disasters such as severe storms or the introduction of predators. In 2013, Parks Australia translocated 39 of the birds to a second island in the Cocos group, in partnership with leading researchers. The translocation was guided by a recovery plan for this rare species. The birds are thriving on Horsburgh Island, but rangers need to keep a close eye on them to make sure predators such as feral cats and rats have not reached the island. Some remote cameras are already in use but there are gaps that need to be filled. This project will boost the number of cameras to ensure systematic monitoring.
Species to benefit
Endangered Cocos buff-banded rail.