To preserve Mr. Howe Woodhen from extinction, scientists exterminated all the rats on an island
The critically endangered bird is relaunched on the small Australian island after officials spent months eliminating the huge population of rats that almost led to extinction.
- Lord Howe Woodhen was almost extinct after a rodent population boom in 2019
- The little flying bird had almost died out once in the 1970s
- The researchers captured 230 woodhens and set traps for rats and mice.
- The team was able to safely reintroduce the woodhens after the extermination.
This month, researchers on Lord Howe Island in Australia reported that their plan to reintroduce an almost extinct bird species after what they described as the largest rodent eradication program on an island has been a success.
Lord Howe Woodhen is a small, non-flying bird that had lived peacefully for thousands of years on the picturesque tourist island, just under 400 miles northeast of Sydney.
In the summer of 2019, the island’s forested populations were threatened by an explosion in the rodent population, which exceeded 360,000, more than 1,000 for each of its 350 human residents.
Lord Howe Woodhen was threatened with extinction for the second time last year, after the island’s rodent population exploded
The woodhens had already survived a scare of extinction in the early 1970s, when their numbers declined to less than 30, thanks to a mixture of human game, owls, wild cats and pigs.
To avoid a second potential extinction crisis, the researchers decided to move forward with a radical plan to end the island’s rodent population.
A group of workers at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney captured around 230 forests and kept them in specially designed enclosures, along with currawong, another subspecies of bird on the island that was attacked by rodents.
“We had to sit down and determine what to feed them and how to take care of them, and how much staff we would need and what kind of facility we would need to build,” said project supervisor Michael Shiels ABC.net.
“The enclosures were to be mouse and rat proof and safe for birds.”
Lord Howe Island is a small and popular tourist attraction just under 400 miles off the coast of Sydney, with only 350 local residents.
Meanwhile, the team placed poisoned grain granules into some 22,000 small blocking traps and distributed them around the island, using helicopters to throw them into some of the difficult-to-reach mountain regions.
Over the course of several months, rats and mice were killed after trying to eat the toxic granules.
In the fall, researchers began relocating the woodhens to their natural habitat by helicopter, mainly in the remote regions of the mountain tops where they had previously settled.
The team believes that the Woodhen will continue to prosper without the threat of rodents because there are no other important natural predators of them on the island.
Researchers began reintroducing the forest this fall and say its population is growing safely
After safely reintroducing the forest into its natural habitat, researchers have focused their attention on studying the effects of rodent extermination on the island’s ecosystem.
However, it is not clear how the elimination of the island’s rodent population will affect the island’s ecosystem.
The team has begun to collect data for a separate study to see what exactly those long-term consequences will be.
“An ecosystem is really the interaction of several species, so if you extract a large biomass, what rodent eradication is doing, obviously that will change the entire ecosystem,” said one of the researchers, Dr. Melanie Massaro, of Charles Sturt University. , said.
WHAT IS THE STATE OF THE LAND SPECIES?
– Two species of vertebrates, animals with spine, have become extinct every year, on average, during the last century.
– Currently, about 41% of amphibian species and more than a quarter of mammals are in danger of extinction.
– It is estimated that there are 8.7 million species of plants and animals on our planet and approximately 86 percent of terrestrial species and 91 percent of marine species remain undiscovered.
– Of those we do know, 1,204 mammals, 1,469 birds, 1,215 reptiles, 2,100 amphibians and 2,386 species of fish are considered threatened.
– 1,414 insects, 2,187 molluscs, 732 crustaceans, 237 corals, 12,505 plants, 33 fungi and six species of brown algae are also threatened.
– World populations of 3,706 species of monitored vertebrates (fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles) decreased by almost 60 percent between 1970 and 2012.
– More than 25,000 species of 91,523 evaluated for the update of the ‘Red List’ of 2017 were classified as ‘threatened’.
– Of these, 5,583 were in “critical” danger, 8,455 “in danger” and 11,783 “vulnerable.”