DEW, AWC refute claims KI dunnart sighting was concealed

The KI dunnart, seen in the lower left corner, was captured on a remote camera on the Sanderson Track in Flinders Chase National Park in August 2018.
The KI dunnart, seen in the lower left corner, was captured on a remote camera on the Sanderson Track in Flinders Chase National Park in August 2018.

The Islander last week ran a letter alleging the presence of the endangered KI dunnart marsupial mouse at Sanderson Bay was being concealed by authorities.

This has now been strongly refuted by the Department for Environment and Water and the Australian Walking Company.

Sanderson Bay is one of two locations in Flinders Chase National Park on the western end of Kangaroo Island where AWC now has approval to build accommodation lodges, the other being Sandy Creek.

Nirbeeja Saraswati from Karatta in her letter wrote that Dr Rosie Hohnen of Charles Darwin University had recorded a dunnart by remote camera on the Sanderson Track in Flinders Chase National Park in August 2018.

Department for Environment and Water responded to the letter, saying information about the KI dunnart is readily available on the Natural Resources Kangaroo Island website, including the minutes and presentations from a May 2019 workshop where scientists, ecologists and landholders met to discuss threats to the species and recovery options.

And the DEW spokesperson said a recent independent fauna survey concluded that the proposed AWC development would not negatively impact on the dunnart.

Sanderson Bay in Flinders Chase National Park. Quentin Chester Photography

Sanderson Bay in Flinders Chase National Park. Quentin Chester Photography

"DEW is working closely with Natural Resources KI, KI Land for Wildlife and the Australian Government to develop a Conservation Advice (a recovery plan) for the KI Dunnart. Once finalised this Conservation Advice will be available for public consultation," a DEW statement supplied to The Islander reads.

"Sightings of the elusive KI Dunnart are always good news as such information helps to inform recovery actions. Since 1990, all records of the KI Dunnart are from the western end of the Island within Flinders Chase National Park, Ravine des Casoars Wilderness Protection Area and areas of remnant natural vegetation on private land.

"Survey work in 1999-2001 detected 22 individuals at six sites, within Flinders Chase National Park. Surveys in 2017-2018 detected individuals on seven occasions at five sites. Surveys conducted between April 2018 and May 2019 detected KI Dunnarts on 42 occasions at six sites within areas of remnant native vegetation.

"The main identified threats to KI Dunnarts are their death caused by wildfires, habitat loss due to Phytophthora cinnamomi, fire and land clearing, predation from invasive species such as feral cats and the potential loss of genetic diversity through isolation of populations.

"In relation to the KI Dunnart, a recent independent fauna survey concluded that the proposed AWC development "will not lead to a long-term decrease in the size of the population, it will not reduce the occupancy of the species, it will not adversely affect habitat critical to the survival of the species, it will not disrupt the breeding cycle of the population and it will not modify, destroy, remove, isolate or decrease the availability of quality habitat to the extent that the species declines."

AWC meanwhile says the recording of the KI dunnart, it submitted for the approval, was 2km north of the proposed Sanderson Bay accommodation site, closer to where opponents said camping should be.

A spokesperson said the site selection process for the two lodge sites involved extensive flora and fauna research.

An artist's impression of the the lodge buildings at one two locations in Flinders Chase National Park.

An artist's impression of the the lodge buildings at one two locations in Flinders Chase National Park.

"We refer to Nirbeeja Saraswati, secretary of Friends of Parks Kangaroo Island Western District's Letter to the Editor and would like to dispel the inference that Australian Walking Company has concealed information, or not presented the complete facts. This is incorrect. AWC has been completely transparent and honourable," the statement supplied to The Islander reads.

"Despite AWC conducting over 20 public and private consultation sessions to provide clarity on the facts, we have recently seen an increased trend in the amount of misinformation being profligated by some of the opposes. Therefore I would like to clarify a couple of things raised in the recent letter to the editor.

"Australian Walking Company's Fauna Survey Report submitted to the Native Vegetation Council included the KI Dunnart siting in August 2018. The local expert ecologists engaged by AWC contacted Dr Rosie Hohnen of Charles Darwin University in the course of them conducted their work, and she provided them with access to her research and data.

"The recording of the KI Dunnart was 2km to the north of the proposed Sanderson Bay accommodation site, and significantly closer to the existing Park's campsite where opponents have encouraged AWC to relocate.

"The site selection process undertaken by AWC involved extensive flora and fauna research and the proposed accommodation sites at Sanderson Bay and Sandy Creek are considered a non-preferred habitat in a Park with almost 60,000 acres of preferred habitat for the KI dunnart. This position was supported by DEW in their representations to the Native Vegetation Council.

"The question of the Hooded Plover has also been raised and we can confirm that, the Fauna Survey Report submitted to Native Vegetation Council stated that there is an established territory of the Hooded Plover at Sandy River Beach.

"This location is outside the disturbance footprint of the accommodation site and the Coastal Protection Board has noted that it is currently accessible to unregulated independent walkers.

"As part of the South Australian Recovery Plan for the hooded plover, there is regular monitoring undertaken through the CPB Scientific Officers and Natural Resources Kangaroo Island.

"The Coastal Protection Board has also noted that Natural Resources Kangaroo Island cordons off nesting areas and erects signage, as required, and particularly during breeding season.

"The current management measures employed by NR KI are consistent with Australian Government approved Conservation Advice, 2014. As part of current park operations the Hooded Plover is also monitored per the requirements of the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail Operations Management Plan.

"AWC over the 30 years of its operations in Tasmania and Victoria has put in place a strict series of protocols when walking in parks, including on beaches. AWC's four-day guided walking experience provides guests with the opportunity to be immersed and guided safely through these special wild places and educated in the protection of the Park's flora and fauna."

The company has started taking applications from businesses and individuals wanting to get involved in the construction phase, and locals who want to work as guides, drivers and support staff when the Kangaroo Island Lodge Walk opens.

Eco Action Kangaroo Island is continuing its efforts to fight the overall approval in court, and has engaged a lawyer and QC.

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