iHerp Australia Issue 6 - Page 21

A fter walking around the island twice, getting tangled up in barilla (the local salt-tolerant vegetation), and being severely wind-blown, I was pretty buggered by the end of the day. This was in November last year, and I really thought it would be my last trip to Chappell Island. But recently an opportunity arose to visit the iconic island again, for the fifth time. There have been a lot of changes since my first visit in 1984; perhaps the most significant being the ownership of the island. When European settlers arrived in the Furneaux Group of islands, north-east of Tasmania in Bass Strait, they utilised the island for sheep grazing and, along with the Aboriginal people, also for muttonbirding. After several deaths from Tiger Snake bites, muttonbird- ing ceased in 1975, but the sheep stayed on until Chappell Island was handed over to the Aboriginal community in 1995, along with three other islands in the group; Badger, Great Dog and Babel. The Aboriginal Land Council was formed that same year for the purpose of holding the land titles on behalf of the Aboriginal community and administering the Aboriginal Lands Act 1995. Lungtalanana (Clarke Island) was returned to the Aboriginal community in 2005 through the same legislative process, along with Cape Barren Island, which is managed by the Cape Barren Island community. Naturally, the rangers working on these islands frequently come in contact with snakes and, being such isolated places, any need for medical help is a concern. Grahame and Ambrose are stationed intermittently on Chappell Island, which is literally moving with big Tiger Snakes. Although these snakes are unbelievably docile, a bite from this species would present a serious issue, especially considering that it takes four hours for a helicopter to reach the island. That is the reason why my friends Justin Kneebone and Chris Daly from Tas Reptilia were invited to Chappell Island, to organise a workshop on catching and handling snakes, including first aid. Justin and Chris are based in Hobart and they provide education