In the 1970s, the Lord Howe Island Woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) was considered one of the most endangered birds in the world.
These woodhens were found nowhere else on earth and it was assumed that there were only 20 birds were left in the wild.
The decline of Lord Howe Island's endemic Woodhen began with the arrival of the first settlers on the island and the introduction of goats, pigs, rats and cats. These species forced the birds to the misty summit of Mt Gower and a few other inaccessible pockets. The situation for these birds had reached a critical point.
The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife funded a search for surviving birds. A further 13 Lord Howe Island Woodhens were found, bringing the then known population to 33 and raised hopes for a captive breeding program.
The Foundation's Role in Saving the Lord Howe Island Woodhen from Extinction
In May 1980 the a captive breeding program for the Lord Howe Island Woodhen went ahead. It was funded with $150,000 from the Foundation, which was spent to construct the compound and to employ scientists involved in this project.
Three woodhen pairs settled into the captive breeding enclosure and started breeding soon after. The first egg was laid in June 1980 to much celebration from the scientists involved and Foundation staff and supporters.
As a result of the Foundation-funded captive breeding program, and the valient efforts of the scientists involved, the Lord Howe Island Woodhen population grew and grew.
The Lord Howe Island Woodhen population reached about 250 birds, which was believed to be the optimum population size for this species on the island.
Goats and pigs were also eradicated from the island, making it a safer place for the Woodhen and ensuring its chance at a bright future.
The Lord Howe Island Woodhen recovery is one of the Foundation’s proudest success stories.