Rodent Eradication

 

Lord Howe Island's isolation and its varied landscape are home to many unique and endemic species, including 241 species of indigenous plants, almost 50% of which are found nowhere else in the world, 207 species of bird, including the endangered Lord Howe Island Woodhen, and 1,600 terrestrial insect species, including the world's rarest insect, the Lord Howe Island Phasmid.

The Lord Howe Island Board's overarching environmental vision is to protect the island's World Heritage values, rich biodiversity and threatened species. To achieve this the LHI Board is currently delivering the Protecting Paradise Program, an island-wide holistic ecological restoration program underpinned by the LHI Biodiversity Management Plan.

At its core, the Protecting Paradise Program aims to support the removal of destructive invasive species, namely rodents and noxious weeds, whilst maintain protection of threatened species by establishing a sustainable and robust bio security system to prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive species.

The presence of exotic rodents on islands is one of the greatest causes of species extinction in the world. Rats have already been implicated in the extinction of five endemic bird species, at least 13 species of endemic invertabrates, and two plant species on LHI. Rodents are also a recognised threat to at least 13 other bird species, 2 reptile species, 51 plant species, 12 vegetation communities, and 7 species of threatened invertabrates on the island. Seven of these species are listed as "Critically Endangered" under NSW and Commonwealth legislation.

These programs complement significant achievements to date including the eradication of cats and pigs in the 1980’s, feral goats in 1999, and Myrtle Rust in 2018, a world-first.

The Protecting Paradise Program was the Gold winner of the 2018 Banksia Sustainability Awards and the 2018 NSW Green Globe Awards in the “Natural Environment” and “Regional Sustainability” categories.

After more than 15 years of detailed research and planning, final implementation of the Rodent Eradication Project (REP) is underway May - November 2019.

The Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Program (LHI REP) aims to eradicate introduced rodents: the Ship Rat (Rattus rattus) and the House Mouse (Mus musculus) from Lord Howe Island (LHI) and its associated islands and rocky islets (excluding Balls Pyramid), hereafter referred to as the Lord Howe Island Group (LHIG). Rodents have significant impacts on World Heritage values including impacts to a range of listed threatened species. The eradication of rodents also presents an opportunity to simultaneously eradicate the introduced Masked Owl.

The one-off eradication proposed to distribute a cereal-based bait pellet (Pestoff 20R) containing 0.02g/kg (20 parts per million) of the toxin, Brodifacoum across the LHIG (excluding Balls Pyramid). Methods of distribution include dispersal from helicopters using an under-slung bait spreader bucket in the uninhabited parts of the island (most of the LHIG) and a combination of hand broadcasting and the placement of bait stations in the settlement area. In dwellings (e.g. in ceiling spaces or floor spaces) bait trays and bait stations are used. Bait stations are also inside paddocks for any remaining livestock (e.g. the remaining dairy herd, cattle and horses).

Given the size and rugged terrain of the LHIG, the exclusive use of baits stations was not deemed feasible for the eradication.

The REP has received significant funding ($10.6M). $9.5M was received in 2012 for planning and implementation from the Federal Government’s former Caring for our CountryProgram (now National Landcare program) $4,500,000 and the NSW Environmental Trust$4,542,442. An additional $1.1M

was received from the Federal government through North Coast Local Land Services in 2019 to implement the baiting component in winter 2019.

For an overview of the project visit www.lhirodenteradicationproject.org or click here to view a summary of the project.