$9 million committed to protect Australia’s World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island by removing all invasive rodents
Efforts to conserve Lord Howe Island received a massive boost this month with a $9 million plan announced jointly by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke and NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker.
A bold initiative of the Lord Howe Island Board, the plan is to remove all rodents on the island in order to protect the islands’ ecosystems, the Kentia Palm industry, tourism and the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors.
Invasive rats pose an ongoing threat to at least 13 bird species that breed on the island, including the Endangered Lord Howe Woodhen and Lord Howe pied currawong, and to endemic reptiles including the Lord Howe Island gecko and invertebrates such as the Whitelegge’s land snail and Lord Howe Placostylus. They also destroy vegetation and are threatening the Little Mountain Palm and the Kentia Palm, which is of enormous economic value to the island.
The Lord Howe Island Group is located 700 kilometers north-east of Sydney and was included on the World Heritage List in 1982. There are around 400 permanent residents on the island.
Lord Howe has spectacular landscapes, including volcanic mountains and diverse low-lying rainforests as well as palm forests and grasslands. There is a large number of species of native plants, many of which are endemic to the island and over 160 species of birdlife. Outstanding underwater vistas include reefs considered to be among the most beautiful in the world while more than 500 species of fish are found in local waters.
One of the threatened species likely to benefit from the rodent eradication is the bizarre-looking Critically Endangered Lord Howe Phasmid (Dryococelus australis). Known locally as the “land lobster” this large flightless insect was recently though to be extinct until re-discovered in 2001 on a lonely rock-stack––Ball’s Pyramid. The phasmid is now being successfully bred in captivity and could be released back to Lord Howe once the project has been completed and the rats removed.
Regional Director for Island Conservation’s Southwest Pacific Program, Dr. Ray Nias has been involved in efforts to conserve the biodiversity of Lord Howe Island since 1996. Dr. Nias said that “through our ongoing work with the Lord Howe Island Board we are determined to help make this globally significant island conservation project a reality. The potential to restore biodiversity on Lord Howe Island is immense.”
Amazed by the Lord Howe Phasmid? Learn more it and see additional photos in this NPR article, Six-legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides for 80 years.
David Attenborough joins the campaign to save native species on Lord Howe Island by removing invasive rats. Read on and see photos from his trip to the island here.
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