It’s been more than 100 days since a rat has been officially detected on Lord Howe Island. But eradicating its rodent refugees is just one chapter in the conservation story of this remote wilderness area, Sarah Reid discovers.

Peering around the tangled roots of an ancient banyan tree, I discover the source of the high-pitched staccato squeaks dominating the rainforest soundtrack: two fluffy brown Lord Howe woodhen chicks, right beside the trail. They must be hungry, as the pair of bantam-sized flightless birds busily foraging for insects on the forest floor nearby—likely the chicks’ parents, which pair for life—don’t seem to be bothered by my presence.

Less than an hour after arriving on Lord Howe Island, a seven-million-year-old crescent of land cradling an idyllic turquoise lagoon some 600 kilometers off the coast of New South Wales, I’d witnessed what would have been a rare sight just a few years ago.