Protecting Paradise: Howe to Make a Difference

August 6, 2019

Lord Howe Island is renowned not only for its spectacular scenery but also as an important breeding ground for colonies of seabirds and marine life. The island’s rich biodiversity includes many endangered and critically endangered species not found anywhere else in the world. With over 75% protected as park reserve, Lord Howe’s pristine natural environment is maintained through world-class conservation efforts that began more than 100 years ago. It’s also been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1982.

From a conservation perspective, the island has delivered many successful programs over several decades including the eradication of feral pigs, cats and goats. A world-renowned Weed Eradication Program is currently midway through its 30-year implementation, targeting more than 60 invasive weed species and has recently declared the world’s first successful eradication of African Big-headed Ants.

Recovery programs have also brought endangered species back from the brink of extinction, including the Lord Howe Island Phasmid and Woodhen. The next step in the island’s conservation journey is the eradication of rats and mice, with the Rodent Eradication Project (REP) currently underway and set to conclude in September 2019. Rodents have had a significant impact on Lord Howe Island’s World Heritage values and more than 70 species of plants and animals since they came ashore following the grounding of SS. Makambo in 1918.

Ongoing conservation programs include the tourist number bed cap of 400 people at any one time, community-driven recycling, waste reduction programs and a world-class waste management facility that diverts 86% of the island’s waste from landfill to recycling.

Following a long history of successful ongoing conservation efforts to protect and enhance its natural environment, Lord Howe Island’s sustainability programs were recognised with five prestigious environmental awards in 2018. Most notable was the 30th Anniversary Gold Banksia Award for excellence in sustainability, recognising the island’s holistic approach to environmental management for more than a century. This added to two Green Globe Awards for Regional Sustainability and the Natural Environment, and the SERA (Society for Ecological Restoration Australasia) award, recognising Lord Howe Island as a flagship for sustainability and a model that can be shared around the world.

The LHI Conservation Volunteers program was launched in 2018 as a collaboration between the Lord Howe Island Board, Lord Howe Island Museum, LHI Marine Park and the Lord Howe Island Tourism Association in partnership with local businesses. The program gives visitors and residents an opportunity to participate in world class, island-wide conservation efforts called ‘Protecting Paradise’.

Alongside experts from all over the world, guests at Capella Lodge – as well as residents and other visitors to Lord Howe Island – have the chance to monitor and explore the unique natural environment and encounter first-hand the species the conservation projects are safeguarding.

Running through the cool season, volunteers are removing invasive weeds, collecting and analysing plastic and beach debris, undertaking nocturnal snail surveys, and helping with the revegetation of Blackburn Island which is the planned re-introduction site for the LHI Phasmid.

September 2019 will showcase Lord Howe Island’s conservation and sustainability initiatives by focusing on specialised Marine Park projects that monitor endemic fish such as the Lord Howe Island McCulloch’s anemonefish (Amphiprion mccullochi); also known as Finding Nemo!

The LHI McCulloch’s anemonefish is found only within Lord Howe Island Marine Park – the southernmost coral reef in the world – and nearby Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs. Due to its small geographic range and its reliance on anemones, the McCulloch anemonefish may have the greatest extinction risk of all the endemic fish in LHI Marine Park. Volunteers are invited to join Marine Ecologists to undertake observational snorkel surveys to assess the populations of fish and health of the coral within the Marine Park.

Lord Howe Island provides a unique and rewarding opportunity to be involved in world class conservation efforts and make a difference in the continued protection of this World Heritage-listed island. If you would like to participate in the LHI Conservation Volunteers program, head to their Facebook page for the latest timetables and more details: https://www.facebook.com/CVLHI/.