National recovery plan for the Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris)

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, 2002

Executive Summary

1.1 Introduction

The Lord Howe Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris, Sclater 1869) is a flightless bird endemic to Lord Howe Island. This species is listed as Endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act) and Vulnerable under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). It is protected under the Lord Howe Island Act 1953.

1.2 Legislative context

This recovery plan has been prepared in accordance with the provisions of the TSC Act. The TSC Act is the legislative framework in NSW to protect and encourage the recovery of threatened species, populations and communities. Under the TSC Act, the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife is responsible for the preparation of recovery plans.

The EPBC Act requires the Commonwealth Minister of the Environment to ensure the preparation of a recovery plan for nationally listed species and communities or adopt plans prepared by others including those developed by State agencies. It is the intention of the Director-General of National Parks and Wildlife to forward the final version of this recovery plan to the Commonwealth Minister of the Environment for consideration for adoption, once it has been approved by the NSW Minister for the Environment.

1.3 Preparation of Plan

This recovery plan has been prepared with the assistance of a number of people from the LHIB, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Taronga Park Zoo as well as local residents of Lord Howe Island. The information in this recovery plan was accurate to the best of the NPWS's knowledge on the date that it was approved.

Following adoption of the recovery plan by the Minister copies of all submissions will be available for public inspection.

1.4 Current Species Status

The Lord Howe Woodhen is listed on Schedule 1 (Part 1) of the TSC Act as an Endangered species. It is listed as Vulnerable on Schedule 1 (Part 2) of the EPBC Act. The IUCN - World Conservation Union - has identified the Lord Howe Woodhen as Endangered (Baillie and Groombridge 1996).

Prior to the start of a rehabilitation program in the 1970s, the population was estimated at 30 individuals. As a result of this program, one of the most successful ever implemented for any bird species, the wild population increased between 1980 and 1985 by over 100 to 140 individuals in at least three geographically discrete populations. In the April 2002 monitoring survey, 127 individuals were counted, not including the Little Slope site, which was not surveyed due to weather conditions.

1.5 Recovery Objectives

This recovery plan is framed within the following recovery objectives:

  • to maintain and where possible, increase the population of wild Woodhens on Lord Howe Island;
  • to establish a Lord Howe Island recovery team to co-ordinate the implementation and ongoing review of the recovery plan;
  • to involve the Lord Howe Island community in monitoring, management, habitat rehabilitation and threat abatement;
  • develop a plan for establishing and resourcing an on-island captive breeding facility in the event of a substantial reduction in Woodhen numbers; and
  • to establish captive populations at sites other than Lord Howe Island as insurance against catastrophe affecting the wild population.

1.6 Recovery Criteria

Achievement of the recovery objectives will be measured against the following recovery criteria:

  • regular monitoring shows that numbers of Woodhens are stable or increasing;
  • a recovery team is established which ensures the plan is implemented and reviewed;
  • the carrying capacity of the Island for Woodhens and the critical number of Woodhens to trigger an on-island captive breeding program will be determined within six months through analysis of habitat availability and monitoring data;
  • a contingency plan for on-island captive breeding is developed within eighteen months and implemented in the event of a substantial reduction in Woodhen numbers;
  • captive colonies are established elsewhere as insurance against catastrophe (eg. disease, cyclone, predation) on Lord Howe Island; and
  • successful establishment of broader community involvement in monitoring and management.

1.7 Recovery Actions

Recovery actions will be directed towards:

  • maintaining and increasing current population levels;
  • protecting existing habitats;
  • controlling threatening processes;
  • monitoring population levels precisely;
  • establishing and activating a recovery team;
  • establishing captive populations off Lord Howe Island, as insurance against catastrophic decline; and
  • developing a plan for establishing an on-island captive breeding facility and implementation of the plan in the event of a substantial reduction in Woodhen numbers.

1.8 Biodiversity Benefits

The effectiveness of management efforts to rehabilitate the Lord Howe Woodhen since the 1970s is an indication of the extent to which some of the more widespread indirect impacts of human settlement on Lord Howe Island have been controlled. In this respect, the Woodhen is an indicator species for the good environmental management of the island's terrestrial ecosystems and an icon for conservation of the island and its wildlife.

The Woodhen is one of a suite of species endemic to the Lord Howe Island Group. The high level of endemism in this island group was one of the principal reasons for its World Heritage listing in 1982. Australia has an international obligation under the World Heritage Convention to protect and conserve the World Heritage values of the Lord Howe Island Group, including the Lord Howe Woodhen.

The implementation of this recovery plan will consolidate and extend these significant biodiversity benefits.

Director-General of NSW NPWS
NSW Minister for the Environment