Suzie Christensen, Lord Howe Island Board, The Lord Howe Island Signal
The Checkpoint program conducted in July 2023 has found no sign of rats or mice on Lord Howe Island for over two years, signalling a significant milestone in the Rodent Eradication Project.
The results were analysed and confirmed by independent experts from the New Zealand Department of Conservation.
The Checkpoint program involved a systematic survey of the PPP and settlement area over a two week period.
More than 950 detection device checks were undertaken using 140 tracking tunnels, 32 trail cameras, and 300 wax tags and chew cards, along with sweeps with detection dogs.
Two years of surveillance data and population modelling were also used to support the findings.
The globally significant project has delivered exceptional ecological benefits, and has been a vital step in ensuring the survival of our unique native and threatened species. This includes the endangered LHI Woodhen population, which has more than tripled to over 1200 birds. Several sea birds, such as the Black-winged Petrel, have seen breeding success increase from as little as 2.5 percent to as much as 50 percent.
Continued monitoring is essential, but there are modifications
Vigilance will be required to ensure we continue to enjoy the benefits of a rodent-free environment.
An internal review of the long-term rodent surveillance program was undertaken with the expertise of Michael Bode of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). The analysis of the existing surveillance and monitoring regime explored the impact of reducing the frequency of canine detection searches in the settlement. An independent analysis shows moving to two types of dog searches – one of the entire settlement, and one of unoccupied crown land parcels – in separate 12 week cycles, 6 weeks apart, will deliver a reliable probability of detection. This means that property searches will now take place every 12 weeks. We thank the community for your patience and resilence during the project. We are grateful for your continiued support.
This article appeared in The Lord Howe Island Signal, 30 September 2023.