Buff banded rail chicks sighted on Horsburgh Island

Transporting the birds in waterproof boxes, off Pulu Keeling to a waiting boat

A tagged rail on Horsburgh Island

In April 2013, 39 Cocos buff banded rails were transported to a new home on Horsburgh Island (part of the southern atoll of the Cocos Keeling Islands) as part of an ambitious recovery plan. This endangered bird was found only in Pulu Keeling National Park on North Keeling Island, so it was important to establish a second colony to secure their longer term survival. Moving some of the birds to Horsburgh Island is an insurance policy, helping to protect the species against disease, predation and storms or cyclones.

Transporting the birds between the islands was the first challenge. Floating boxes were specially designed to ensure their safe transit through the surf because landing a boat on Pulu Keeling National Park is almost impossible.

When they were released, the rails were tagged with metal and plastic coloured bands for identification. The birds are monitored via 20 sensor-cameras.

So far around 30 per cent of the birds have been sighted during monitoring surveys. We are thrilled that we have also seen the next generation of chicks and unbanded sub-adults!

This project has been a collaborative effort between scientists, Parks Australia, the local government and the community. Developing these sorts of partnerships and taking bold action like this is crucial to effectively conserving our wildlife.

Trish, Pulu Keeling National Park