Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Rats!


The Brown rat eradication project on the Antarctic Island of South Georgia is back in the news (http://www.sgisland.gs/index.php/%28e%29Eradication_Of_Rodents) with coverage of plans to more-or-less cover the island with baited rat poison with the help of 3 helicopters. The rats got to the island via whaling activities in times gone by and have thrived in this location largely by feeding on the eggs and chicks of the ground-nesting (obviously) bird colonies. This anthropogenic effect is decimating the bird populations. The only thing that worries me about this story is that it comes around again and again. I have seen reports, from at least as far back as 2011, suggesting imminent success in the eradication process. Rats are, however, remarkably resilient and seem to be resisting the herculean efforts of the conservationists. The Brown rat is  good at constructing warm tunnels and is a skilled climber (hence their ability to climb the riggings of sailing ships). These features (along with its impressive reproductive rate) enable the species to threaten indigenous  island populations in many parts of the world.

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