In the southern Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of South America, the few inhabitants of South Georgia Island are saying goodbye to some unwelcome visitors: Norway Brown rats.
At 80,000ha South Georgia Island is over 7 times larger than any other island that has been successfully freed from the scourge of introduced rodent infestations. The eradication of rodents on South Georgia is an immense undertaking spearheaded by the South Georgia Heritage Trust.
While the eradication of Norway Brown rats is a challenging operation, the Trust has a major advantage. The rodent infestations are separated by sea-level glaciers which means that progressive eradication of independent populations is possible. However, the clock is ticking; as these glaciers retreat as a result of global warming, the few remaining wildlife refuges free from the rodent will be overrun.
Happily, successful eradication of rodents is on track with ‘Team Rat’ completing their baiting target for 2013. They treated 70% of the infested area and will treat the remaining 300 square kilometers in 2015 subject to the availability of funding.
Once baiting is complete, scientists estimate an increase of 100 million birds on the island; a truly inspiring goal that highlights the potential of islands worldwide, to harbor biodiversity in the absence of non-indigenous species such as introduced rodents.