Volunteers help restore Five Islands Nature Reserve

Published: 27 Sep 2016

Enthusiastic volunteer work is helping to save seabirds on Five Islands Nature Reserve near Wollongong.

The work is part of a restoration project to help reverse damage caused by invasive weeds, which are affecting seabird habitat and breeding sites.

The reserve consists of five small islands clustered off the coast from Port Kembla, Wollongong.

The restoration project began in April 2014 with the establishment of a trial zone on the largest island, Big Island. Due to its success, the project is rolling out across the rest of the island.

The project aims to:

  • rehabilitate habitat for seabirds of conservation importance
  • increase numbers of little penguins, short-tailed shearwaters and wedge-tailed shearwaters
  • enable the return of white-faced storm-petrels to Big Island.

Since the late 1970s, kikuyu grass has invaded Big Island forming a dense, almost impenetrable mat that prevents the seabirds from burrowing their underground nests. As a result, white-faced storm petrels have stopped nesting on the island. This is a major concern since petrels have undergone a six-fold decline in numbers in NSW over the last few decades.

Similarly, little penguins struggle to set up nesting colonies and if the weeds are not controlled they may become locally extinct in the Illawarra.

The project is an initiative of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, in collaboration with the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife and the Friends of Five Islands group. This group includes partners from the University of Wollongong, Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association, Australasian Seabird Group, Illawarra Local Aboriginal Land Council, and local expert botanists and island ecologists.

Send your historical pictures

Project coordinators are interested in receiving historical photographs of the islands to help them understand changes over the past decades and to inform the restoration program. If you have any photos that might help, please email them to five.islands@environment.nsw.gov.au.

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