26 September 2023

Rodent ruin saves Lord Howe’s rare birds

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Population recovery for one of Australia’s rarest birds is on track following a successful rodent control program on Lord Howe Island by the Department of Planning and Environment’s Saving our Species (SoS) team and the Australian Museum.

Celebrating the news, Minister for Environment, James Griffin said the population of the endangered Lord Howe Island Woodhens had almost tripled to about 565 since the program was implemented in 2019.

“This is good news for the Lord Howe Island woodhen, which was once on the brink of extinction, with the population as low as 22 birds in the 1970s,” Mr Griffin said.

“Lord Howe Island has a large number of threatened species found nowhere else on earth,” he said.

“Before the program began, there were thousands of rodents on the island, damaging plants and animals.”

Mr Griffin said the rodent control program was the first of its kind to be conducted on a permanently inhabited island.

He said the success of the program was also good news for the more than 30 other threatened species of flora and fauna on Lord Howe Island.

“In addition to the recovery of the woodhen, for the first time, live specimens of four different critically endangered land snail species were recorded in a single survey,” he said.

“They were previously thought to be extinct, with only shells of the snails having been found.

“This is an incredibly optimistic sign for the future of conservation.”

Mr Griffin said the SoS and Australia Museum team spent more than 400 painstaking hours looking for the tiny snails at 200 survey sites on the remote island.

“By controlling pigs, cats, goats, plant disease and rodents, Lord Howe Island’s native fauna and flora has been able to recover, demonstrating that good science and management can help to turn back the tide of biodiversity decline,” he said.

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