Biodiversity on Lord Howe Island recovers thanks to rodent control

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The recovery of one of Australia’s rarest birds is well underway thanks to a rodent control program developed to protect the unique wildlife of World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island.

Environment Minister James Griffin said the population of endangered Lord Howe Island Woodhens has almost tripled to around 565 since rodent control was implemented in 2019.

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

“It is also good news for the more than 33 other endangered species of flora and fauna found on beautiful Lord Howe Island.

“In addition to the recovery of the Hen of the Woods, for the first time live specimens of 4 different species of critically endangered land snails have been recorded in a single survey.

“They were previously thought to be extinct, with only snail shells having been found. This is an incredibly optimistic sign for the future of conservation.

The NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program team and the Australian Museum spent more than 400 painstaking hours searching for the tiny snails at 200 survey sites on the remote island.

The rodent control program, which began in 2019, is the first such program to be conducted on a permanently inhabited island.

Lord Howe Island has a large number of endangered species found nowhere else on earth. Before the program began, there were thousands of rodents on the island, damaging plants and animals.

“By controlling pigs, cats, goats, plant diseases and rodents, the native flora and fauna of Lord Howe Island have been able to recover, demonstrating that good science and good management can help reverse the trend of declining biodiversity,” Griffin said.

Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams said community support for the rodent control program has been central to its success.

“The wooden hen survey, for example, took 14 days as scientists from the Department of Planning and Environment, working with the islanders, combed the island and recorded each hen in sighted wood,” Ms Williams said.

“Community engagement is a vital part, and I thank the Lord Howe Island Board and community for working tirelessly to help protect their beautiful island.”

Department of Planning and Environment scientists, university researchers, and locals had access to private properties to conduct accurate population surveys.

Researchers and staff from the Lord Howe Island Board will apply all the knowledge gained through the program to future conservation work across the state.

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