A wide variety of birds have been recorded, a mix of resident and transient species which can easily move, seasonally and even daily, to and from mainland Tasmania for feeding and breeding. The island also has an abundant seabird population; including the largest Fairy Prion colony and the only significant colony of sooty shearwaters inTasmania. Tasman Island lighthouse, the highest operating lighthouse in Australia, was first lit in 1906. Three light keepers tended the light until automation in 1976. The keepers and their families were removed in 1977, abandoning the heritage-listed buildings to time and the elements.
Domestic cats, introduced by lightkeepers in the early 1900s, established a significant feral population when the light station was de-manned which had a severe effect on the native bird population. Attempts in the 1980s to reduce their numbers failed. In 2008 a joint effort between Wildcare’s Tasmanian Coast Conservation Fund, founded by Rob Pennicott, the Parks and Wildlife Service and the Resource Management and Conservation Division of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, was ultimately successful. Seabird numbers and species diversity appear to have significantly increased following the removal of the last of the feral cats in 2010.
The original vegetation on Tasman Island would probably have been a dense forest of banksia and she-oak. A few old specimens still remain, but clearing trees for firewood, fires and grazing by sheep and cattle converted much of the plateau into a windswept mosaic of grassland, shrubland and sedgeland.
The Wildcare group, Friends of Tasman Island (FoTI) was formed in 2005. After 28 self-funded working bees, an impressive range of conservation and maintenance work on both the natural and built heritage has been achieved. Volunteers spend 10 days on the island each working bee.
Ongoing funding initiatives are needed to restore the keepers’ quarters to their former glory. Luke generously donated his time, artistic skills and resources to ensure FoTI’s first crowd-funding campaign was successful. As a volunteer on their November 2017 working bee, Luke contributed (including a lot of painting!) to the rebuilding of the sunroom and front verandah of Lightkeepers’ Quarters No 2.
The spectacular natural wonders of Tasman Island with its jaw-dropping views of Cape Pillar and the Blade are a magnet for artists. Luke is keen to help FoTI plan an Artist in Residence program on the island so more artists can be inspired by the beauty and history of the island while contributing to its conservation and sustainability.
by Erika Shankley & Carol Jackson
Friends of Tasman Island Wildcare Inc