Lord Howe Island’s birdlife protection program success
Friday 6th December 2013
Bird Keeper, Sprina Liu watches on after releasing a Lord Howe Island Woodhen
Bird Keeper, Sprina Liu watches on after releasing a Lord Howe Island Woodhen

The success of a trial program for Lord Howe Island Woodhens and Currawongs will help ensure their protection during a planned pest eradication program for the World Heritage listed site.

In the trial, 20 Woodhens and 10 Currawongs were taken into aviaries and cared for by specialist Taronga Zoo bird keepers for three months from July and successfully released in October.

“All the birds were successfully cared for and released which means we now know we can keep a population of the birds in our care during the program,” Taronga Zoo Senior Bird Keeper, Michael Shiels said.

“The birds were caught from around the settlement and kept in specially-built aviaries where their health, diet and behavior were constantly monitored. We now know that a much larger group of these birds can be kept in aviaries during the pest eradication program.”

Jointly funded by the Australian and New South Wales governments, the $9 million Lord Howe Island Pest Eradication Program aims to eliminate house mice and ship rats from the island.  It is scheduled to take place in 2016 and will involve a single baiting program.

Ship rats arrived on Lord Howe Island in 1918 and since then have been implicated in the extinction of at least five native bird species and 13 insect species, and continue to pose a threat to birds, reptiles, plants and other animals.  House mice arrived on the island in 1860 and continue to eat invertebrates, seeds and plants.

Introduced rats and mice also pose a public health issue for people.  The Lord Howe Island Pest Eradication program is based on world’s best practice in pest eradication and follows closely on the success of a similar program on the World Heritage listed Macquarie Island to eradicate rodents and rabbits.   

The Lord Howe Island program will use helicopters with computer-guidance to lay the baits away from populated areas and hand spreading and bait stations around the settlement. The eradication program is a collaborative effort between the Lord Howe Island community and its board, the New South Wales and Australian governments and Australian and international environment experts to achieve a successful outcome for a place of outstanding and global environmental significance.