It was about time this forum sought some more direct advice on the situation
regarding rodent control, Woodhens and other endemics on Lord Howe. I am sorry
I didn't do this before (thanks Chris for prompting me).
Ian Hutton has very kindly sent me information to post to birding-aus (below)
and has kindly offered to send me updates as things progress, which I will of
course pass on immediately.
The consultation process for this exercise has clearly failed to some degree
but you will be pleased to know, there will be other opportunities. I am
surprised to hear that the plan is already in its second round of review and
has been commented on by Birds Australia, who have been notably silent during
our discussions. Yet again, can I please appeal on behalf of other birders
(most of whom will be Birds Australia members) that we find out about such
issues? It hardly needs to be spelt out, the importance of engaging members,
especially where there potentially serious direct consequences for birding and
birders both in Australia and visiting from overseas.
I have told Ian that there has been very favourable discussion about the
venture on birding-aus and I am sure it will get support from all. The main
concern clearly is about lack of communication and due process. I will do
everything I can to forward information on when I hear about it but it sounds
as though there will be a final public exhibition period at some stage. Perhaps
this forum could be used to collate ideas and submit on behalf of Australian
birders That way the project will get the kind of broad community engagement it
seeks when it approaches the conservation organisations.
FROM IAN HUTTON, LORD HOWE ISLAND (LHI) RESIDENT ORNITHOLOGIST:
The situation is that in 2001 a
feasibility study was undertaken into eradication of rodents from
Lord Howe Island.
Since then DECC NSW and the LHI
Board have been progressing a plan, along the techniques developed and refined
over the past 30 years by NZ DOC. This is basically using a cereal pellet
containing the anticoagulant brodifacoum to kill rats and mice. Over the past 30
years about 300 islands worldwide have been treated using these techniques. To
ensure each and every rat receives a bait, pellets are distributed by a
combination of hand spreading and aerial dropping from a helicopter. Experience
learned from each eradication project has refined the techniques, and islands as
large as subantarctic Campbell Island (11,000 ha) have been successfully
treated. Studies associated with these program have shown that in the short term
some bird numbers may drop (those that would eat a pellet or scavengers that
would eat a dead rat or mouse); in the long term all bird numbers on treated
islands have risen dramatically. Also to benefit are lizards, snails, insects,
plants, just about anything rats eat have increased in numbers after successful
No one wants to see any birds
killed, but if an eradication program is not done, each and every night rats
remain on Lord Howe Island dozens of birds and
hundreds of insects, seeds etc are eaten and will continue to be eaten.
The situation as it stands for
Lord Howe Island, is that April 2009, a draft
eradication plan was completed and sent out to various bodies for comment. These
bodies included Birds Australia, IUCN, WWF, NZ DOC, Landcare Research NZ.
The comments have been received
and are being amalgamated into a second draft plan, for release to the general
public shortly with plenty of time to comment.
While I have not actually seen
the first draft plan, it is my understanding that if the eradication plan was to
go ahead there would be measures to protect the endemic birds that may be at
risk. Figures being talked about are that half the Woodhen population and half
the LHI Currawong population would be caught and kept in captivity here on
Lord Howe Island for a period of 100 days or
until the pellets disintegrate. As research into this captive holding of birds,
(if the program goes ahead) there would be trials holding about 30 of each bird
one year prior- to ascertain problems that may be encountered - and fix these
before the real thing one year later (possibly winter 2011). To manage this
captive holding program, world’s best experts will be enlisted.
The eradication plan for
Lord Howe Island will not go ahead unless all
safeguards can be met to ensure no affect on human population, and minimal
affect on birds (and other animals). If it does proceed, the best international
experience and advice will be used.
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