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Posted on 28/11/2019 by Phillip Island Nature Parks

Cape Barren Geese study update


The first phase of a new collaborative research project to investigate the impact of Cape Barren geese on forage crops on Phillip Island has been completed. 

Stage one of the study was conducted over winter 2019, where trial sites were established on two Phillip Island farms. Measurements of crop yield were made to determine the effect of grazing by wildlife on forage crops. Six cameras on the sites took photos every fifteen minutes over the four months, to identify the species impacting the agricultural outcomes. 

The wildlife species suspected of grazing included wallabies, rabbits and geese with surprising results. Initial findings made by undergraduate student Lou Gaffney showed that Cape Barren geese comprised the majority of visits to the forage crops by wildlife with most visits occurring during daylight hours. The geese preferred to visit the turnips (Brassica rapa), over the oats (Avena sativa) and the ryegrass pasture (Lolium perenne). A new fence erected to keep wallabies out of one of the sites had an unintentional effect of deterring geese as that site experienced fewer visits than the unfenced crops. 

Results from Honours student Celeste Fraser’s work shows that oats inside the grazing exclusion cages yielded higher results than the oats that were open to grazing by wildlife. Lou’s work connected to Celeste’s in that she found that most of the wildlife visiting the sites were Cape Barren geese. Celeste is also working on feed quality analyses to identify preferences by geese for plant digestibility and protein content. 

This project is the first of its kind on Phillip Island and is a joint effort between Phillip Island Nature Parks, Federation University and the Phillip Island agricultural community. 

It represents the Nature Parks’ commitment as outlined in our Conservation Plan 2019-2023 towards evidence-based solutions for living with wildlife through direct research and working in partnerships. 

“This study is an important step in making informed decisions around living with wildlife,” said Catherine Basterfield, Nature Parks CEO. 

“Once complete, results of the study will be shared with farmers through the Island Goose Consortium and presented to the Department Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP).” 

“The Nature Parks is also working with key stakeholders including DELWP, Bass Coast Shire Council and Phillip Island landholders towards a plan for living with wildlife and maintaining sustainable agriculture on Phillip Island.”