St Bees Island

St Bees Island, a continental island within the Cumberland archipelago, lies about 30 km east north east of Cape Hillsborough on the Central Queensland coast.

St Bees Island is largely composed of steep, volcanic hills reaching 370m above sea level. A small number of koalas were introduced to St Bees Island from the adjacent mainland in the 1930s. Later koalas were taken from St Bees Island to nearby Brampton and possibly Newry Islands. On St Bees Island, at least, the koala population has persisted and it is currently estimated that the island supports a population of between 200 and 300 animals.

Elsewhere in Australia introduced populations and isolated mainland populations have grown rapidly and outstripped their habitat. A small team of researchers from the University of Queensland and Central Queensland University) supported by the Central Queensland Koala Volunteers established a study of the koala population of the island in 1998, and have found the colony to be thriving, without any problems.


It was identified as part of the Cumberland Isles Group by Lieut. James Cook in June 1770. St Bees Island and neighbouring Keswick Island were first designated together as ‘L1 Island’ by Lieutenant Matthew Flinders, RN, in HMS Investigator in 1802. St Bees Island and Keswick Island were later individually named in 1879 after towns in England's Cumbria Lake District by Staff Commander E. P. Bedwell, RN, in SS Llewellyn. The two islands separated by only a few hundred metres by the picturesque and very deep Egremont Passage.

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St Bees Island is largely composed of steep, volcanic hills reaching 370m above sea level. Goats were introduced to the island prior to 1905 and are still present on the island in large numbers. Grazing by sheep, cattle and horses started in the 1907 and declined during the 1950’s. A few abandoned sheep, horses and cattle survived to the 1970s. Today intertidal wetlands, eucalypt forest and woodland, casuarina woodland, rainforest and grassland form a mosaic of contrasting ecosystems across the island.

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