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Pulu Keeling Nationa Park is the entire 1.2 square kilometers of this tiny atoll plus a band of sea around the island 1.5 kilometers wide.
Photo: Courtesy of Parks Australia Cocos (Keeling) Islands

May 31, 2002
Pulu Keeling National Park- Part 1
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Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Today, Parks Australia gave the Odyssey crew a great treat: the chance to visit Pulu Keeling National Park (also called North Keeling Island)-a little known tropical atoll in the Indian Ocean,. lying 24 kilometers north of the islands of South Keeling.

Proclaimed as a National Park in December, 1995, 'Pulu'- the Malay word for island, includes its entire 1.2 square kilometers of land plus a band of sea around the island 1.5 kilometers wide. The terrestrial and marine environment of this park contain rare ecosystems now absent from other islands. The Park supports endangered as well as endemic species and is the only seabird breeding area within a radius of 900 kilometers.

Today the park is maintained under the energetic and watchful eye of conservator, Wendy Murray. As we walked among the legions of nesting birds and armies of crabs, Wendy discussed the significance of this place and why it requires protection.

Wendy Murray - Government Conservator : Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Wendy Murray - Government Conservator, Parks Australia.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Hi, I'm Wendy Murray. I am the government conservator here on the Cocos Islands. I work for Parks Australia which is a division of Environment Australia.

It's special (North Keeling Island) because it's the only island that has not been cleared for coconut plantations. It's the only island left in this entire region that has it's original vegetation and fauna.

There are about 26 species of birds. We're finding more all the time as our resources improve we spend more time up there (North Keeling Island). The more time we spend up there, the more species we discover.

The main colony is the red-footed booby colony and there is about 22,000 to 25,000 pairs of birds there. They prefer the pisonia habitat which on North Keeling grows to about 30 meters tall. Whilst, they tend to live mostly in that habitat, they do go out to the margins and they live in argusia (Octopus Bush) and scaevola (Cabbage Bush) as they do on a lot of other coral atolls. The frigate birds prefer the pemphis (Tea Shrub) vegetation, the low growing tea-tree around the margins of the lagoon, but then every now and again, they will move in and share some of the habitat with the boobies.

In the marine zone, there are all the typical rock crabs and ghost crabs. On the land, we have three species of land crabs, three species of hermit crab, the Christmas Island red crab and the wonderful robber crab. That's the best one. They are just huge. Called the coconut crab they will break into anything that looks potentially edible. They come out after rain. We don't see them a lot, but it's always very exciting when you do see them because they are very rare down here (on West Island). There are different sizes and there are different colors that they get. It is pretty amazing.

A Robber Crab.
Photo: Courtesy of Parks Australia Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Genevieve Johnson

With the widespread global decline of atoll reef systems such as these (due to a variety of human impacts), the conservation and protection of the few remaining such ecosystems is of international importance. Unfortunately, the declaration of the 'Pulu' Keeling National Park as a wilderness zone has not proven to be enough to protect it entirely. In the next Odyssey log we will discuss the daily challenges faced by Wendy and her staff, as they work to protect this unique island ecosystem.

Log by Genevieve Johnson

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