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A Question of Balance :: 7:30pm 3rd Oct 2017

At last: Lord Howe Island rodent eradication program approved

Nicholas Carlile, from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, charts how rodents will finally be removed from the Australia’s offshore Lord Howe Island. About 500km off Port Macquarie in the Tasman Sea and discovered by James Cook, the first people on the island were in May 1788, filling their ships with turtles and birds and fresh water on their way to Norfolk Island. The first rodents to arrive were house mice. The ship (black rat) rat arrived through the careening of the Mikabo, that hit rocks and its stores from Sydney were offloaded – including black rats. The rats flourished and destroyed the native Lord Howe phasmid and nine species of bush birds. Some seabirds only successfully breed now on the outer islands where there were no rats. Agricultural attempts to produce commercial crops have been decimated by rats and mice. In 2001-2002 the NSW National Parks and Wildlife (now Heritage) undertook developing an effective plan for rodent eradication of rodents. These were the only remaining feral pests left after removal of goats, pigs and cats. The eradication could not disrupt tourism or impact humans or human health and so it is based on the method pioneered by New Zealanders almost 30 years earlier and had eradicated rodents from more than 300 islands. The program will start on the 1st June 2018 and by the 22nd there should be no surviving rodents. 100 tons of rubbish have already been removed from the island and the ground baiting and hand baiting will cover all settlement areas, including every shed, roof cavity and sub-floor. The baiting is deliberately planned for winter when food resources are quite poor. It will take two years of monitoring to prove the $9 million eradication a success.

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