Saturday, July 6th 2013 - 06:51 UTC

Success of South Georgia’s rat eradication campaign makes BBC news

The world's largest rat eradication campaign has now laid toxic bait on a further 580 sq km of South Georgia, reaching its target. These poisonous pellets have now been spread on 70% of the rat-infested island, according to a BBC report from Melissa Hogenboom.

Professor Tony Martin, the project's director from the University of Dundee: a race against time

South Georgia is home to an incredible wild life, but with man came the invasive rats

First introduced on sealing and whaling ships in the late 18th Century, tens of thousands of invasive rats have long been a threat to local wildlife. The team is confident they will eradicate the rodents within two years.

South Georgia is famous for its rich wildlife but as sailors plundered the ocean for seals and whales, they unknowingly brought with them the common brown rat. The unwelcome visitors multiplied quickly as they bred and for over 200 years have feasted on the chicks and eggs of ground-nesting seabirds, which include ducks, diving petrels and prions.

Species like the South Georgia Pipit and the South Georgia Pintail are unique to the island and there is now a growing concern that many local birds are at danger of extinction.

The island is separated by several glaciers, so once rats have been eradicated from a region, they cannot repopulate it. But as the climate warms the island's natural glaciers are slowly melting. As this continues, there will no longer be a natural barrier preventing the rats from spreading.

Tony Martin, the project's director from the University of Dundee, described the mission as “a race against time”, as the melting glaciers could make the task of removing them nearly impossible.

“What's there today is but a shadow of what was there when Captain Cook discovered [the island] in 1775”.

He explained that species like the fabulous Wilson Storm Petrel, which were once present in the millions have all left the main island.

”There are still a few rodent-free islands around the coast from which the main island can be re-colonised. We are trying to allow the sea birds to reclaim their ancestral home.

“The ecosystem of South Georgia evolved in the absence of any terrestrial mammals, so when man came along... and introduced these furry rodents, they were completely naive. This is a man induced problem and it's about time that man put right earlier errors,” Prof Martin said.

“Team rat”, as they call themselves, embarked on the first phase of the eradication project in 2011, and successfully removed rats from a tenth of the island.

The team purposely left time between missions to observe if any survivors had managed to reproduce but, two years on, the area remains rat free.

For the latest mission the team spread nearly 200 tons of pellets using helicopters which enabled them to cover large areas very quickly. They dropped pellets in every area mice or rats occupied and areas which cannot be reached by helicopter were baited by hand: this included former whaling stations which are now industrial heritage sites.

Prof Martin explained that to be successful meant total eradication... Killing 99.9% would be a failure.

For this latest phase, for which the team had spent 21 months in preparation, they faced the harshest weather conditions experienced in a decade and were often unable to fly.

The project will need to raise a further £2m in order to bait the remaining area at the southern end of the island, which they aim to complete in 2015. Even when rat free, the wildlife is not expected to return immediately as to re-colonise the island could take decades if not centuries, said Prof Martin.

“Man managed to mess up South Georgia in the space of very few years but it's going to take centuries before it gets back to where it was.”

Though challenges remain - not least to find the additional funding needed, Prof Martin said his team is confident they can win this race against time. (BBC)

 

9 comments Feed

Note: Comments do not reflect MercoPress’ opinions. They are the personal view of our users. We wish to keep this as open and unregulated as possible. However, rude or foul language, discriminative comments (based on ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or the sort), spamming or any other offensive or inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated. Please report any inadequate posts to the editor. Comments must be in English. Comments should refer to article. Thank you.

1 Porto Margaret (#) Jul 06th, 2013 - 01:23 pm Report abuse
The campaign began due to the infestation of Argentine rodents in ’82 and their successful eradication. This is the culmination with removal of the smaller four legged rats.

For those that are 'amante de los roedores' please visit : www.turismo.gov.ar/eng/menu.htm
2 Marcos Alejandro (#) Jul 06th, 2013 - 04:56 pm Report abuse
English eradication campaign next.
3 Beef (#) Jul 06th, 2013 - 08:27 pm Report abuse
What do you intend to do Marcos? Bore us to death!
4 Conqueror (#) Jul 07th, 2013 - 10:17 am Report abuse
@2 You tried that in '82. Failed. Dismally!
5 ChrisR (#) Jul 07th, 2013 - 01:44 pm Report abuse
That's the answer to all of The Dark Country's problems!!!

Drop 15 million suitably distributed poison pellets to eradicate the Peronistas infesting The Dark Country.

I don't know why it was not thought of before.
6 Captain Poppy (#) Jul 07th, 2013 - 02:57 pm Report abuse
Beef....I believe their plan of action is to cry. long, hard and loud enough with hopes of world wide pity.
marcos, you can't even use your military against your own people anymore let alone to make an attempt at the ultimate theft in asslips kirchner's mind...........the British Falklands.
You can steal your citizens private pensions
You can steal your citizens U$
You can steal oil companies
You can steal railways
You can steal farmers grains

I really would love to see you attempt those islands.

BTW marcos......does eradicating the British from their islands mean you RG's have developed your version of the “Final Solution”.......genocide planning? Is this what you learned from harboring WWII nazi's?
7 reality check (#) Jul 07th, 2013 - 03:08 pm Report abuse
Chris! Does his know he wants to wipe them out?
8 Anglotino (#) Jul 07th, 2013 - 05:59 pm Report abuse
“English eradication campaign next”

As with every other Argentine government policy, this one has also been a massive failure.

PMSL
9 ChrisR (#) Jul 07th, 2013 - 06:15 pm Report abuse
7 reality check

Not sure I understand your post. :o(

Commenting for this story is now closed.
If you have a Facebook account, become a fan and comment on our Facebook Page!

Advertisement

Get Email News Reports!

Get our news right on your inbox.
Subscribe Now!