The Egg Islands are a very familiar part of the scenery at Franklin. Little more than a stone’s throw away, sitting right in the middle of the Huon River, the islands are a major feature of the view from Franklin. But how many of the town's residents appreciate just how special the Egg Islands really are?
Like many wetland areas around the world, the Egg Islands are widely perceived as swampy, "useless" ground. There's plenty of stories about the size and quantity of the snakes that live there too!
But a new attitude towards the Egg Islands is growing. Their fascinating history is being uncovered and their nature conservation values explored. This includes finding two threatened bird species on the islands.
The ecotourism potential of the Egg Islands has also been recognised and investigations are underway into some exciting new projects for Franklin. The not-for-profit community organisation, Southern Training Employment and Placement Solutions (STEPS), is currently looking at options including:
An important component of these projects would be job creation and education at a local level.
In October, a submission was sent to the State Government urging that the islands be included in the Wetlands Strategy currently being developed for Tasmania. This followed the earlier release of a Government discussion paper which highlighted the importance of a number of wetland sites around Tasmania. The Egg Islands were not amongst them -- despite the fact that more than 128 hectares on both the north and south islands are protected as conservation area due to their "estuarine wetland" values. The submission received the support of a number of local organisations including the Franklin Progress Association, the Shipwright's Point School of Wooden Boatbuilding, the Huon Healthy River Project, Franklin Primary Junior Landcare and STEPS.
"It is our submission that the cultural heritage of the Egg Islands should be investigated as a matter of urgency. It is highly likely that the significant food resources of the islands (including eggs and waterbirds) were utilised by Aboriginal people. Cultural assessment should be carried out and this connection recognised by the State Government and local community. The move is supported by the South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation (SETAC) which recommends that “an Aboriginal Heritage Officer undertake a complete Aboriginal heritage assessment with a report of findings to be forwarded to SETAC for further comment."
There are also references by early European colonialists to successful hunting of waterbirds on the islands.
A fascinating oral history of the islands exists, with known connections to several local families. Sadly, much of this history has not been recorded and may be permanently lost unless collected as soon as possible. Historical matters of interest include:
There are also wider historical themes which could be explored through interpretation including the region's former reliance on transportation via ships (particularly for the apple industry) and attitudes towards the land (particularly wetlands)”.
"The flora and fauna of the islands has not been fully surveyed and recorded. The only existing lists of observed bird species held by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service date from 1977 (Brothers), 1983 (Montague) and 1986 (Blackhall)… No recent surveys have been conducted and it appears -- based on local observations -- that the islands provide important habitat for many more than 28 bird species. For example, ornithologist Peter Marmion (Birds Australia member) has observed two threatened species on the islands -- the stunning Grey goshawk Accipiter novaehollandia and the Swift Parrot Lathamus discolor. Latham's Snipe Gallinago hardwickii, which is subject to a convention on migratory species, has also been seen there. Marmion says the Egg Islands are used as nesting sites for the Swamp Harrier Circus aeruginosus. Other species which use the islands are the White Breasted Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster, Brown Falcon Falco berigora, and Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus. There has been an unconfirmed sighting of a Ground Parrot Pezoporus wallicus, on the southern island.
Fauna survey work of mammals, invertebrates and reptiles is also far from complete, although some PhD work into the features of the island's tiger snake population has been previously carried out. The Short-Beaked Echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus, the endemic Pademelon, Thylogale billardierii, and the Water Rat, Hydromys chrysogaster, have all been observed at the site."
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© Bronwen Hayes 2000
© Jonathan Sturm 2001