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Keywords:

  • adaptive management;
  • Gould's Petrel;
  • legislation;
  • recovery plans;
  • recovery programmes;
  • species recovery;
  • threatened species

Summary  Surprisingly few faunal taxa worldwide have experienced an improvement in conservation status through direct conservation action. One of the few is Gould's Petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera leucoptera) – a threatened species that breeds only in New South Wales. In the early 1990s, the breeding population of this subspecies was small (<250 pairs) and declining. Each year, adult mortality at the breeding grounds exceeded the number of young produced. A recovery programme, focused on reducing adult mortality, commenced in 1993. As a result of the recovery actions undertaken, the Gould's Petrel is now increasing in numbers. Also, the rainforest where this seabird breeds is now regenerating after being degraded for almost a century by the introduced European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). The creation of artificial nesting habitat and the development of effective translocation procedures have led to the establishment of a second breeding colony of Gould's Petrel, further reducing the risk of extinction.

In this paper, we explore the key elements we believe to be responsible for the success of this particular recovery programme: (i) a strong underpinning of robust ecological research; (ii) adaptive management; (iii) monitoring and reporting; (iv) a multidisciplinary approach; and (v) a willingness to accept risk. We conclude with some suggestions to improve the current recovery planning process.