After months and months of preparation and work on the Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Bird Husbandry Trial, the project has come to a successful end. All 30 birds that were captured in July are back in the wild, roaming the island.
The 10 Currawong and 20 Lord Howe Island Woodhen were given a thorough physical exam by Taronga Zoo Vet, Frances Hulst, and released back into the wild with their mates or family groups on Friday 18th October. With help from Lord Howe Island Board staff, each bird was taken back to its point of capture and released with the individuals or family groups they were captured with. The whole process took about three hours.
Our emotions and anxiety levels that morning were running high. This was the day that everyone involved in this project, those on site and many others back on the mainland, have been anticipating and working to see achieved. We were feeling positive about the outcome in the days building up to the release, but you never know until that last bird has left your hands. It was a bittersweet moment for as we watched the birds fly (or walk) off into the bush. We are very happy and proud of the work we have done here but it also means saying goodbye to this beautiful island, the birds, and the friends we have made.
In the days since the release, we have begun cleaning and packing up our worksite. The enclosures sit empty, and for us, eerily quiet. As we go about our business, we reflect on what the last few months have meant to us and 1) wonder what the birds are up to and 2) hope that we have made a meaningful contribution to the project and the island.
Have we seen any of the birds since the release? Yes. Though we haven't been actively searching them out, we have spotted several Woodhens in the areas where they were released. As they were captured as adults and only held for a few months, we are confident that everyone is settled back in familiar territory/surroundings and are doing well.
We hope that the actual rodent eradication project, will be a success and with any luck, we may be able to return to Lord Howe Island and do it all again.
Bird Keeper, Sprina
Photos by Sprina Liu and Emily Schmelitschek