rats

Rat Invaders: Islands Fighting Back Against Killer Rodents

Since the furry stowaways landed here aboard sealing and whaling ships in the 19th century, they've been wreaking ecological havoc on the island and its ground-nesting seabirds by preying on the birds and their eggs.

Enter an international team of wildlife biologists, who have recently completed the second phase of history's largest rat-eradication program on the remote island.

Braving appalling weather in the run-up to the Antarctic winter, the group's helicopter pilots logged hundreds of hours in perilous flying conditions to spread nearly 200 tons of rat poison over 224 square miles (580 square kilometers) of South Georgia's coastline.

The ultimate goal: To rid this once supreme seabird habitat of its millions of rats once and for all. South Georgia was probably the richest seabird-breeding area in the world when British Captain James Cook visited it in 1775, according to Tony Martin of the University of Dundee, who leads the rat-eradication campaign on behalf of the South Georgia Heritage Trust. (See more pictures of South Georgia.)

Now the island has less than one percent of its original seabird population, he said. "And that is down to rats. This is a human-induced problem, and it is down to humans to do something about it."

And they are. This recent bait drop follows a successful trial two years ago, which cleared 10 percent of South Georgia of the invasive rodents. Next year, Martin said, the group plans to return and finish the job, hopefully rendering South Georgia rat-free by 2015.

Date
2013
Data type
Media
Theme
Research and monitoring
Author

Rats be Gone: Rodent control begins on St. Eustatius

Sint Eustatius:---The island of Sint Eustatius has initiated an ambitious two-year project to reduce the number of rats on the island. The project has two leaders, Hannah Madden (Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute), who will look into the impact of rats on biodiversity, and Dr. Teresa Leslie (Eastern Caribbean Public Health Foundation), who will investigate the public health threat. Through these combined activities it is the responsibility of these co-investigators to significantly decrease the number of rats on the island and implement a sustainable rat control program.

Rats in Sint Eustatius are increasingly becoming a problem to humans and nature alike. According to Madden, “rats eat almost everything, from flowers and fruits to plants and meat. Not just agricultural produce, but also the native flora and fauna of the island, are impacted. This could very well result in a reduction of the number of different plants and animals found on Statia, which has happened on rat-infested islands elsewhere. A decline in the island’s biodiversity has various negative effects. It affects ecosystem products and services (such as fresh water and food), and indirectly affects livelihoods and income.” She continues by stating how “rats have been documented eating the single-egg clutch of red-billed tropicbirds during the nesting season, and are likely to impact many other vertebrate species on Statia.”

According to Leslie, in addition to being a risk to nature and biodiversity, rats pose a major threat to public health. Rats carry potential diseases which pose a direct risk to human and animal health”. “The bacterial disease leptospirosis, which is often associated with rats, poses a serious threat in the Caribbean and is not adequately documented” says Leslie. Through a collaboration with Ross University School of Veterinarian Medicine in St. Kitts, a component of this work will investigate diseases rats in Statia may be carrying. Leslie believes that “knowing about potential diseases can be used to raise community awareness about the need to reduce the number of rats on the island”.

Both Madden and Leslie agree that community involvement is critical to the success of the program. ”The people of St. Eustatius identify rats as an island problem. However, there is no systematic approach to their control” says Leslie. According to Madden, “in order for this project to be successful, the community must be engaged and understand that they can play a major role in solving our rat problem”.

This two-year, island-wide rodent control project began on February 1. The project is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs and facilitated through the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute (CNSI). In 2019, the Public Health Department will continue to implement the rodent control program created by Leslie and Madden to ensure long-term sustainability.

Date
2017
Data type
Media
Theme
Education and outreach
Geographic location
St. Eustatius

Caribbean island launches plan to remove invasive rats and goats

The remote Caribbean island of Redonda, part of Antigua and Barbuda, is home to numerous species of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth. It is also home to invasive black rats and non-native goats that are wiping out the island’s native, rare wildlife, conservationists say.

To help the island’s flora and fauna, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda is now initiating a plan to remove all goats and rats from the island. The Redonda Restoration Program program has been formed by the Antigua & Barbuda Government and the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) in collaboration with organizations like Fauna & Flora International, British Mountaineering Council, Island Conservation and Wildlife Management International Ltd.

Date
2016
Data type
Media
Theme
Education and outreach
Research and monitoring
Author