Adults and baby fairy terns killed in Mandurah sanctuary

Photo: Cherilyn Corker
Photo: Cherilyn Corker

FIFTEEN chicks and five adult fairy terns have been killed or disappeared from Mandurah’s fairy tern sanctuary in the past week in a major setback for the fairy tern breeding program.

The City of Mandurah believes a feral cat entered the sanctuary on at least two occasions and killed the birds.

A number of tracks and faecal deposits were found, confirming reports from the public of a large white cat in the area.

As a result, a number of birds have abandoned their nests, leaving a number of eggs unprotected and without care.

It is uncertain if the adults will return to their nests and if the eggs will survive.

But a local conservationist who has seen the white cat on several occasions believes it is not a feral animal but a cat in pristine condition that is lactating and likely a loved domestic pet.

“Why is there no cat proof fencing at the reserve in a public area where there are other domestic cats?’’ she said.

Fairy terns are listed as a vulnerable species under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, meaning they are considered important on a national scale.

City chief executive Mark Newman said it was a terrible setback for the fairy tern conservation program.

”The City has been working with a number of project partners, volunteers and researchers to establish a local sanctuary to protect the birds,’’ he said.

“The program was showing some great results developing the largest breeding colony in the Perth/Peel area this season.

“We’re asking the community for their support to help protect this vulnerable species, by keeping their cats indoors until the end of the fairy tern breeding season in late January,” Mr Newman said.

The reserve was launched last year after a small colony of fairy terns nesting on a vacant lot caused a postponement in building activity.

The return of nesting terns to Mandurah created significant interest in the community, particularly when two birds were identified as 20 years old, the oldest fairy terns on record.

Anyone interested in being involved in the conservation of the threatened species should contact the City of Mandurah’s environmental services at environmental.services@mandurah.wa.gov.au