Cheeky island cormorant a master of crime

Tracey Ferrier

Oscar throws a furtive glance over his shoulder and slinks quietly away from the crowd.

He's well-practised at making stealthy exits. He keeps his head down and his pace up.

It helps that the pelicans and cormorants gathered on the beach for a free lunch are putting on a lively spectacle for the tourists - a perfect smokescreen for his covert mission.

With the crowd at his back, he presses on, feet slapping determinedly towards a dark and distant doorway and the booty he knows awaits.

An esky brimming with fish. And they're all his.

Since taking up residence at beautiful Tangalooma Island Resort, on Moreton Island off Brisbane, Oscar the cormorant has made a name for himself as a master of crime.

"He is such a character and he's a favourite here because of his cheeky antics," ecoranger Jessica Poole says.

"Any time that we walk to the fish shed it certainly can catch the attention of Oscar, who will always try his luck at grabbing a sneaky fish."

Like many of the animals that call the resort home, Oscar's story is one of peril and salvation thanks to the resort's team of ecorangers.

He's lucky to be alive after some fishermen trying their luck at the Tangalooma Wrecks, just off the island's shore, spotted him with a fishing hook stuck in his neck.

"He was in a really bad way. He was rescued by our team and was sent off the island for care and an operation to remove the hook from his oesophagus," Jessica says.

He spent a lot of time recuperating at a bird rescue centre on the mainland. It was there that he got used to human contact and free lunches.

And nothing's changed since his return to the island.

"It was actually a dilemma for us as it is difficult to reintroduce these types of rescued birds back into the wild," she says.

"We decided to let him go at Tangalooma so we could monitor his recovery as he still had difficulty eating fish."

Now, he takes every chance he can get to sneak into the resort's fish storage rooms and help himself.

And it seems he's a cut above his mates on the beach who have to compete for their free lunch at the resort's daily pelican and cormorant feeding sessions while Oscar dines sumptuously alone.

"We can always tell that he is behind us from the sound of his little feet. Our challenge now is to wean him off our handouts," Jessica says.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Tangalooma Island Resort, on Moreton Island, is 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane.

The ferry leaves from the Holt Street Wharf at Pinkenba, about 10km from the Brisbane airport.

Day passes are available if people want to visit the resort and enjoy experiences like dolphin feeding but aren't staying overnight.

STAYING THERE: Guest accommodation ranges from budget rooms and hotel-style accommodation to holiday home rentals and elegant, modern deluxe apartments with 180-degree beach views.

PLAYING THERE: Experiences include feeding wild dolphins off the beach, underwater tours of the island's shipwrecks, water sports, helicopter tours, sand dune adventures and quad biking, night paddles in transparent kayaks, scuba diving, fishing, and touring the Blue Lagoon. For more, visit www.tangalooma.com

The writer travelled as a guest of Tangalooma Island Resort.