After more than 15 years of detailed research and planning, final implementation of the Rodent Eradication Project (REP) is scheduled for winter 2019 (May – October).

Lord Howe Island’s isolation and its varied landscape are home to many unique and endemic species, including 241 species of indigenous plants, almost 50% of which are found nowhere else in the world, 207 species of bird, including the endangered Lord Howe Island Woodhen, and 1,600 terrestrial insect species, including the world’s rarest insect, the Lord Howe Island Phasmid.

The Lord Howe Island Board’s overarching environmental vision is to protect the island’s World Heritage values, rich biodiversity and threatened species. To achieve this the LHI Board is currently delivering the Protecting Paradise Program, an island-wide holistic ecological restoration program underpinned by the LHI Biodiversity Management Plan.

At its core, the Protecting Paradise Program aims to support the removal of destructive invasive species, namely rodents and noxious weeds, whilst maintain protection of threatened species by establishing a sustainable and robust bio security system to prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive species.

The presence of exotic rodents on islands is one of the greatest causes of species extinction in the world. Rats have already been implicated in the extinction of five endemic bird species, at least 13 species of endemic invertebrates, and two plant species on LHI. Rodents are also a recognised threat to at least 13 other bird species, 2 reptiles, 51 plant species, 12 vegetation communities, and 7 species of threatened invertebrates on the Island. Seven of these species are listed as “Critically Endangered” under NSW and Commonwealth legislation.

These programs complement significant achievements to date including the eradication of cats and pigs in the 1980’s, feral goats in 1999, and Myrtle Rust in 2018, a world-first.

The Protecting Paradise Program was the Gold winner of the 2018 Banksia Sustainability Awards and the 2018 NSW Green Globe Awards in the Natural Environment and Regional Sustainability categories.


Yes, the REP period on Lord Howe will be safe for residents and visitors as evidenced in a Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) for the project overseen and endorsed by the NSW Office of the Chief Scientist. For more information visit: Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project website.

No, there will be no short or long-term impacts on the fish we eat on Lord Howe Island. Even though some pellets will fall into the sea (within 5- 10 m of the shoreline), it is very unlikely that fish will consume those pellets and even more unlikely those fish would then be consumed by humans. Studies have shown that pellets disintegrate quickly in open water and that fish rarely consume the pellets. The large majority of fish consumed on the island are caught well away from the shore. However as a precautionary measure, people are advised not to consume the livers of any fish caught from the shore of the island, as that is where any toxins would accumulate (not the flesh), until monitoring confirms there is no residue of the toxin.

No. Aerial baiting will not be conducted over any dwelling or water tank so there will be no impact to drinking water in the settlement area. As a precautionary measure, people are advised not to drink from any streams until monitoring confirms there is no residue of the toxin.

Milk produced locally by the small number of dairy cows on Lord Howe Island is not commercially available. Dairy cattle will be managed to ensure they do not have access to bait, however, as a precaution milk produced locally will be tested to ensure there is no brodifacoum residue present. Visitors and residents drink milk brought from the mainland, so there is no issue with drinking milk or consuming other dairy products whilst on Lord Howe.

Yes, you can still swim safely anywhere on Lord Howe during the REP.

A comprehensive assessment of risk to each bird species on Lord Howe was undertaken as part of the environmental evaluation of the project. Many migratory sea or shore birds will be absent during the baiting. The only two species found to be at significant risk from the project were the Lord Howe Woodhen and Currawong. The conservation team from Taronga Zoo is already on Lord Howe, and will be caring for these two species throughout the project in specifically designed enclosures.

Removal of rodents is expected to significantly benefit birds on the island.

Dog owners have been offered choices of how to keep dogs safe during the REP including the use of bait stations only on their properties and the use of muzzles. None of the off leash exercise areas (mostly beaches) will be baited aerially or hand broadcast. Dogs being walked in other areas should be kept on a lead. Dog owners on the Island can have access to muzzles if they wish.

Some cattle and chicken owners have chosen to dispatch their stock during the REP, whilst others have chosen to keep theirs. Where cattle and chicken remain on Lord Howe bait will be enclosed within bait stations with covers to prevent access.

The baits remain active until they break down under weathering and environmental conditions. This is expected to be about 100 days.

Recreational activities will generally not be affected; however, some walking tracks will be closed for short periods (approximately 2-3 days) in June during our two aerial applications to allow efficient aerial baiting. Tracks will be checked after aerial baiting and bait pellets encountered on the track removed. The tracks will then be reopened. You may still see baits alongside the tracks. These are not a risk to people but we recommend they not be handled.

Most rodents are expected to die in their nests underground and few are expected to be found in the open. Baiting teams will remove any dead rodents encountered. If you find a dead rodent you can contact the REP team and they will remove it.

Should you have any queries regarding the REP program please contact:

Yes. In Australia the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the main tool for managing our obligations under the World Heritage Convention. The REP was assessed under the EPBC Act, (including potential impacts to World Heritage values) through a Public Environment Report (EBPC 2016/7703). An approval under the Act was issued on 18 August 2017.

Predation by exotic rats on Australian offshore islands of less than 1000 km2 (100,000 ha) is listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Act, with eradication of rodents from Lord Howe listed as a priority action to address the threat.

Visitors to Lord Howe Island during the REP will be provided with a Residents and Visitors REP information sheet and will likely come across REP team members, easily identified by their bright blue hats, who will be placing and monitoring lockable bait stations in public areas and in and/or around houses and accommodation. The REP team are happy to answer any questions you have about Lord Howe’s conservation projects.

Protecting Paradise and Lord Howe Island Conservation Volunteers

Lord Howe Island’s ‘Protecting Paradise’ program was the 2018 recipient of the Gold Banksia award for sustainability, largely based on its holistic approach to safeguarding the island’s unique and endemic flora and fauna.

LHI Conservation Volunteers will run its annual program from May-September encouraging visitors and residents on the island to learn more about Lord Howe Island’s conservation legacy and participate in important citizen science.

For more information on the Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project please visit Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Project or contact the Lord Howe Island Board on 02 6563 2066.

Follow Lord Howe Island Conservation Volunteers on social media

Timeline of key events for the Rodent Eradication Program

April 15, 2019
External rat bait stations will be set up in a 10-metre grid within the settlement.

April 2019
Taronga Zoo to collect Lord Howe’s woodhens and currawongs and house in purpose-built cages during the REP.

May 20, 2019
External bait stations start to be baited, internal mouse stations will begin to be placed in dwellings.

June 1, 2019
There will be no aerial broadcast over the settlement. The first of two aerial broadcasts is planned for June 1, with the second 10 – 21 days later (weather dependent). Hand broadcasting is planned at the same time as aerial, each will take approximately 2-3 days to complete.

June – October 2019
Bait stations will be checked every five days during the first month, this will reduce to weekly and then fortnightly over time.

July – October 2019
Non-toxic monitoring tools and Biosecurity Detector Dogs will be used to detect any remaining rodents.

October 31, 2019
All bait stations brought back in. Monitoring for two years with no signs of rodents is a signal of the program’s success.



Lord Howe Island is not unique in having rats and mice, but it does have a rare opportunity to solve the problem. Most inhabited islands around the world have rats, as does every major city, and some manage them better than others. Lord Howe does a good job of managing them around the settlement but they are still impacting on most of the island and they won’t go away unless we do something to get rid of them.

A window of opportunity

The complete eradication of invasive rodents has now been carried out on over 300 islands around the world. It has been done elsewhere, it can be done here. There are solid precedents for what needs to be done and how to do it. Careful feasibility planning indicates it can be done here, and this has led to the availability of funds and expertise to protect Lord Howe Island now. The window will not stay open for long and if the eradication did not go ahead the funds will go back to the mainland, they are not available for other projects on the island.


Everywhere in the world we are seeing a frightening trend: resistance to once effective treatments including antibiotics and pesticides. This is currently happening with TB where strains are appearing which are resistant to all normal antibiotics. Similarly, many other bacteria are becoming resistant to penicillins (which were far more effective when introduced 70 years ago). The mice on Lord Howe Island are already resistant to Warfarin, one of the earlier rodenticides

Imagine an island without rats and mice

Lord Howe is special in many ways, and its unique wildlife, history and its people are reflected in its World Heritage status. Removing rodents completely and for good will make it even more special and enhance a worldwide reputation as an ecotourist destination. Rodents are currently only being controlled on a small percentage of the island. Elsewhere they are having a major impact on the wildlife and vegetation. Without the rodents, plants and wildlife will flourish. People will no longer have to bait around their homes and businesses. There will be no more risk of the ongoing poisoning of native species that is currently happening or the risk to children or dogs.

Yes, it is. Provided basic precautions are taken, the risk of brodifacoum poisoning during the proposed eradication is remote.

Current usage of Brodifacoum and Talon

The current practice of using rodenticides (such as Ratsak Plus® and Talon®) containing brodifacoum on an ongoing basis for rodent control on Lord Howe Island poses an ever present risk for residents, their pets and local wildlife. The eradication of rodents will remove the need for the ongoing use of rodenticides and the risks that go with it.

How to approach the baits

For the most part, the risks to human health associated with the proposed eradication operation are similar to those that currently exist through the domestic use of products likeTalon®. In brief, the baits should be treated like any other poison. They should not be eaten or handled. Residents with children already exercise care when using baits domestically. Baits used domestically have a much higher concentration of brodifacoum, 2.5 times greater than the baits that will be used in the eradication. However, there will be more baits on the ground during the eradication and care must be taken with children and those unable to read the signage that is posted.

The only way residents could be exposed to brodifacoum absorption from the skin is by handling baits directly. However, for there to be any adverse effects a person would need to handle large quantities of bait for long periods of time. The risk of such exposure is negligible.

What to do

Swallowing one or two baits seldom requires medical treatment. In the extremely unlikely event that medical treatment is required (involving vitamin K injections), it will be available. Nevertheless, anyone suspecting brodifacoum poisoning should seek medical advice.

Advance notice

Before any bait is distributed on the island, the community and tourists will be informed about the nature and timing of the operation and the need to avoid ingesting or handling baits.

Fact Sheet Community health and well-being PDF 534 KB

To date, brodifacoum residues have not been detected in water bodies following any aerial baiting operations—not surprising, given that brodifacoum has very low solubility in water.

The baiting operation will be conducted to avoid bait going into the lagoon and minimise the entry of baits into the ocean.

What we already know, fresh water

From other aerial baiting operations, we know that there is a very low chance of any streams and other water bodies on Lord Howe Island containing detectable levels of brodifacoum, much less biologically harmful concentrations, as a result of the eradication.

Because brodifacoum has very low solubility in water and binds strongly to soils it is unlikely to get washed into the marine environment. Any baits entering streams or other water bodies sink, and disintegrate, usually within a few hours, depending on turbulence and rate of flow. The minute amount of brodifacoum in the bait (20 parts per million) settles in the sediment where it binds to organic material and breaks down.

Brodifacoum binds strongly to soil particles, where it is broken down by soil micro-organisms to its base components, carbon dioxide and water. While the cereal bait pellets disintegrate and disappear within 100 days or so, the toxin itself takes longer to break down but by this stage the concentration is so low that it poses no risk to humans or wildlife.  Laboratory studies have shown that brodifacoum is effectively immobile (i.e. not leached) in the soil.

Nonetheless, water samples will be collected at various intervals after the baiting and analysed by an independent laboratory to reassure residents and tourists that the water (along with locally produced milk and locally caught fish) is not contaminated.

In the marine environment, outside the lagoon

Outside the lagoon, any baits that might enter the ocean will be exposed to wave action and strong currents resulting in rapid breakdown and dispersal. This, together with the high dilution factor, and the fact that brodifacoum has very low solubility in salt water, means that the potential risk to marine organisms is very low.

In the marine environment, within the lagoon

Within the lagoon, the physical breakdown of baits would not be as rapid, so entry of baits into the lagoon will be prevented by hand distribution of bait, rather than aerial distribution, along the accessible shoreline of the lagoon. As there is very low risk of brodifacoum being at detectable levels in the streams, any water entering the ocean or lagoon is unlikely to carry detectable levels of brodifacoum.

Fact Sheet Brodifacoum – is it the best choice? PDF 774 KB

Expect increasing numbers and types of birds and other wildlife

Eradicating rats and mice from LHI is expected to result in marked increases in the abundance of land birds and seabirds. Eradicating these pests from LHI will reduce the risk of extinction of many threatened species and help protect the island’s biodiversity and World Heritage status.

There will be substantial increases in the distribution and abundance of the LHI skink and gecko, all species of land snails, as well as many other creatures. There will be an increase in the abundance of seeds and seedlings, increasing recruitment of many threatened plants and enhancing the process of forest regeneration.

With the rats and mice gone, bird populations will flourish, increasing in abundance to levels not seen for many decades. Nesting colonies of storm-petrel and Kermadec petrel are likely to re-establish on the main island. Also, the opportunity would then exist to return some of the species that have been lost from LHI, such as the, fantail, warbler, pigeon and boobook.

Fact Sheet Birdlife – what will Brodifacoum do? PDF 603 KB

It is simply not possible to effectively and safely distribute the bait on areas such as the Southern Mountains and Northern Hills by any other means. Aerial application of bait has been a key factor in previous successful eradications, because it means that every rat on the island has the opportunity to find and eat enough bait, within a short period of time. Due to the small size of some mouse territories it would require putting bait stations at close intervals over the whole island, including the sides of Mt Gower and Mt Lidgbird which is not feasible.

Spreading bait from a bucket slung under a helicopter has been very successful in removing all rodents in similar situations such as Campbell Island (11,300 hectares) which has 300m cliffs and sea caves. Raoul Island (2900 hectares) in the Kermadec group – about 2000 km east of Lord Howe is similar topographically to lord Howe although its mountains at 516m are not a high as those on LHI. A project is also underway on 352,800 hectare South Georgia Island in the South Atlantic which includes mountains up to 2900m in height.

To minimize the amount of bait that goes into the sea, as much as possible of the area around the lagoon and other sites such as Ned’s beach will be hand-baited. While it is not possible to guarantee that no bait will go into the sea where aerial broadcasting takes place, as it is important to get bait as close to the high tide line as possible, this will be minimised by the use of a deflector in the bucket which directs the bait just out one side.

While the amount of bait proposed for the eradication sounds large (42 tonnes), it is important to remember that the bait pellets are mostly made of cereal, containing just enough poison for a couple of pellets to kill one rat. The concentration of the poison in each bait pellet is 20 parts per million – so if you could divide up one bait pellet into a million same-sized pieces, only 20 of these pieces would be toxic, this is 2 ½ times lower than the bait that can be bought in shops.

Only those working directly with the baits around the helicopter will be exposed to significant dust and they will be wearing protective equipment.  Bait will not be spread in high winds to minimise the risk of any dust being widely dispersed.

Aerial baiting will not be conducted over the settlement and will not be conducted in high wind. Combined with the fact that brodifacoum has very low solubility in water i.e. would sink to the bottom of a tank and bind with any material there, it means that there is effectively no risk to human health from dust in water tanks.

Brodifacoum has very low solubility in water, and therefore will not be taken up by plants. No exposure risk is anticipated from plant-based food grown on the island.

As an added precaution there will be no bait put in vegetable gardens as these areas will be done by hand broadcast or bait stations as per the Property Management Plan for each site.

Successful eradication would protect and enhance the Island’s World Heritage Status. Tim Badman, the Director of the IUCN World Heritage Programme has written to confirm support for the program.

  • Islands make up less than 5% of the earth’s land area, but are home to an estimated 20% of all bird, reptile, and plant species.
  • Islands also contain 40% of all critically endangered species, and extinction rates are disproportionately greater on islands.
  • 80% of all known extinctions have occurred on islands.
  • Nearly a quarter of the world’s plant species exist only on islands.
  • Some individual islands are home to hundreds—or even thousands—of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world (endemic species). Other islands have a few or even a single unique endemic species.
  • Many islands are home to species yet to be described by science. We don’t even know what we might be losing—such as sources of food or medicine.
  • On islands, species under threat of extinction have nowhere else to go, so they must be protected on-site.
  • Many migratory species breed and raise their young only on a few islands, or sometimes only on one single island.

Source: Island Conservation

FAQs Source from Lord Howe Island Board

During 2019 the Rodent Eradication Program will be included in the LHI Conservation Volunteers (CVLHI) program. Running from May-September the CVLHI believe in protecting Lord Howe Island’s unique biodiversity while showcasing world-class conservation in action. They are dedicated to empowering like-minded people to make a difference through robust citizen science, inspiring educational experiences, and tangible local conservation action.

The CVLHI program is jointly delivered by the Lord Howe Island BoardLord Howe Island Museum, LHI Marine Park and the Lord Howe Island Tourism Association in partnership with local businesses. Our globally recognised conservation projects have experts from all over the world working side by side with our conservation volunteers, monitoring, collecting and exploring this unique natural environment. Experience nature like nowhere else and be part of sustaining this amazing environment and experience firsthand the species that our conservation projects are safeguarding.

Want to be a part of the CVLHI program? Get involved through the Lord Howe Island Rodent Eradication Program.

Lord Howe Island
Winter 2019
Travel Information Sheets

Lord Howe Island
Conservation Volunteers
Program Outline