An environmental booby threatens bird
Layla Tucak Louise Perry The Australian 8.4.02
SLEEK, graceful and incredibly rare, the Abbotts Booby bird found only on Christmas Island has faced many natural foes throughout its evolution, but none as powerful as its most recent the federal Government. The commonwealth recently announced plans to build a detention centre on Christmas Island at the North West Point an area surrounded by national parks and identified as a high priority centre for the rehabilitation of the birds.
The National Parks Australia Council has denounced the plan as “illegal”. In a letter to Environment Minister David Kemp, the NPAC said the proposal did not have proper approvals and asked that the work on the site cease immediately
NPAC president Andrew Cox said the development, which was of national environmental significance, should have been referred to Mr Kemp under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, but wasn't.
He also said the development contravened an approved recovery plan for the Abbotts Booby and an environmental impact statement should have been prepared but wasn't.
"There are more suitable sites on the island that do not have such severe environmental impacts, and already have infrastructure provided," he said.
Monash University biologist Peter Green said Abbotts Booby birds were the focus of a commonwealth funded rehabilitation program, which had been taking place at the site of the new detention centre. "And now they have just put a bulldozer through it," he said.
If the development goes ahead, the researcher said the island's famous red land crabs would also be under threat from increased traffic along the one main road that connects the site to the eastern side of the island where most people live.
"Once a year the crabs migrate across that road to spawn and increased traffic will result in millions of deaths," he said.
Dr Green said nesting habitats of the endangered seabirds were also threatened by phosphate mining companies.
"One mining company wants to clear 450ha, 75 per cent of which is pristine rain forest that has never beer touched before," he said.
"It's crazy. It would not be an overstatement to say that Christmas Island is a jewel in the environmental crown of Australia.
"We have the world's only population of Abbotts Booby birds and other endemic creatures as well as land crabs that control the entire bio diversity of the rainforest ... and we should protect it.'