State: Tasmania | Hectares: 164 | IUCN Category: VI | Partners: Tasmanian Land Concervancy
The Egg Islands are a beautiful mosaic of wetland, marsh, scrub and forest stretching for 10 kilometres on Tasmania's Huon River. The Reserve is testament to a great conservation partnership - 164 hectares of outstanding native habitat protected forever through contributions from families, business donors and $200,000 from the Australian Government. It will now be part of Australia's National Reserve System - Australia's most secure way of protecting native habitat.
Not-for-profit organisation the Tasmanian Land Conservancy owns and manages the Egg Islands Reserve. "It is a fantastic addition to Australia's National Reserve System," chief executive Nathan Males says. "The north island is eucalyptus ovata forest - an endangered forest community that has been largely cleared for agriculture elsewhere because it occurs on really fertile soils. So there's really little of this type of forest left and it's really unusual to get a patch. We were able to buy about 60 hectares of ovata forest for the Egg Islands Reserve, which is really tremendous."
Just an hour from Hobart, the reserve is home to the rare Australasian bittern, a bird once widespread in Tasmania. The bittern is an elusive bird despite its size - up to 75 centimetres. Similar in look to a stocky heron, the bittern is a solitary ground nester, feeding on frogs, eels and freshwater crustaceans in dense wetland vegetation. Many believe the cryptic bittern is the origin of the legend of the bunyip - a spirit creature that lives in swamps and waterholes, making loud, terrifying noises at night. During the breeding season, at dawn and at dusk, the bittern's distinctive call booms across the Egg Islands landscape.
Adding the Egg Islands Reserve to Australia's National Reserve System ensures this is one legend whose story will continue to be told. The reserve covers just under a quarter of the islands. Most of the remaining land is already protected by a state government conservation area and public reserve, as well as unallocated crown land.
Tasmanian biologist Stewart Blackhall has surveyed the Egg Islands, recording an enormous range of native plants and animals. Eighty-seven native bird species call the Egg Islands home, amongst them the endangered grey goshawk. The short-beaked echidna and pademelon are also found on the islands. "Wetlands like the Egg Islands are some of Tasmania's richest habitats for plant and animal life," Stewart says. "Protecting these wetlands makes a significant contribution to the National Reserve System."
The best way to explore the reserve is from a row boat, gliding through the misty channels that crisscross the islands. Visitors can hire boats in Franklin - a town on the banks of the Huon River overlooking the islands.