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Monthly Archives: March 2015 − News & Stories

South Geor­gia: third pha­se of Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject com­ple­ted

The third and last main working pha­se of the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject on South Geor­gia has been com­ple­ted suc­cessful­ly. The Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject of the South Geor­gia Heri­ta­ge Trust (SGHT) is the immense task to remo­ve rats from the island that have been intro­du­ced by sea­lers and wha­ler, see also pre­vious news on this web­site. The aim is to res­to­re South Geor­gia as a bree­ding habi­tat for mil­li­ons of sea­birds, espe­ci­al­ly smal­ler spe­ci­es.

Some days ago, the SGHT was able to release an important press stop: the third, final main pha­se of the pro­ject has been com­ple­ted with suc­cess! On Mon­day, March 23rd 2015, the last load of bait was drop­ped from one of the heli­c­op­ters of Team Rat.

It will, howe­ver, take seve­ral years until final suc­cess can be declared: all are­as need to be careful­ly che­cked to make sure no rats have sur­vi­ved. The sur­vi­val of only 2 rats, male and fema­le, or even one pregnant fema­le, would sweep off all efforts as rats popu­la­ti­ons can pick up very quick­ly, making it impos­si­ble to con­trol them on a low level. Curr­ent­ly, are­as from ear­lier working pha­ses are being che­cked. This work will con­ti­nue for seve­ral years to come. At the time being, Team Rat is still in South Geor­gia and able to do more bai­ting should any need ari­se.

The SGHT and their sup­port­ers have done an immense work with gre­at suc­cess, achie­ving what many would have descri­bed as the impos­si­ble. In the inte­rest of mil­li­ons of sea­birds, we wish the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject of the SGHT the very best and we hope that we can cele­bra­te the final suc­cess of the pro­ject after all checks have been com­ple­ted within a few years.

The SGHT is hap­py to recei­ve dona­ti­ons to sup­port their ongo­ing work for the pro­ject.

Sea­birds near South Geor­gia: thanks to the Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject, popu­la­ti­ons espe­ci­al­ly of smal­ler spe­ci­es can be expec­ted to increase signi­fi­cant­ly in years to come.

Seabirds near South Georgia

Source: South Geor­gia Heri­ta­ge Trust

South Geor­gia rat era­di­ca­ti­on is making pro­gress

The Habi­tat Res­to­ra­ti­on Pro­ject of the South Geor­gia Heri­ta­ge Trust (SGHT) is the high­ly ambi­ti­ons pro­ject to era­di­ca­te rats com­ple­te­ly on South Geor­gia. The island has been rat infes­ted sin­ce the Brown rat was inci­den­tal­ly intro­du­ced by sea­lers and wha­lers, sin­ce then the­se rodents have spread over most parts of the island: a dis­as­ter for mil­li­ons of smal­ler sea­birds which are bree­ding the­re in the high tus­sock grass or in bur­rows, and their popu­la­ti­ons have been deci­ma­ted dra­sti­cal­ly.

After rats and other intro­du­ced spe­ci­es had been sucessful­ly era­di­ca­ted on other, though smal­ler, sub­ant­ar­c­tic islands such as Camp­bell Island and Mac­qua­rie Island (both south of New Zea­land), the SGHT deci­ded to attempt the see­mingly impos­si­ble and get rid of rats on South Geor­gia, which is, howe­ver, much lar­ger and has a much more dif­fi­cult, lar­ge­ly alpi­ne, ter­rain. But the gla­ciers help to make it pos­si­ble, as they are impas­sa­ble bar­riers for rats, sepa­ra­ting the lar­ge island into a num­ber of smal­ler are­as which can be trea­ted sepa­ra­te­ly. But not fore­ver, as gla­ciers are retrea­ting rapidly on South Geor­gia, and it won’t take long until some have retrea­ted far enough to expo­se bea­ches whe­re rats can then move free­ly from one area to ano­ther. Then, the are­as will be too lar­ge for a suc­cessful era­di­ca­ti­on. The con­se­quence is simp­le: now or never!

The pro­ce­du­re to drop poi­so­ned bait from heli­c­op­ters is sophisti­ca­ted, but gene­ral­ly well known from pre­vious pro­jects such as Camp­bell and Mac­qua­rie Islands. The teams invol­ved the­re have now brought their know­ledge and expe­ri­ence to South Geor­gia. Cer­tain tech­ni­ques, bait and good timing limit the num­ber of other birds being poi­so­ned by acci­dent to a mini­mum. The­re is some mor­ta­li­ty among­st spe­ci­es like Giant pet­rels and Sku­as, but num­bers are low and far from a level that might end­an­ger popu­la­ti­ons.

A first test­ing pha­se in a smal­ler area was suc­cessful, and so was the first of the two main pha­ses of the pro­ject in a lar­ger part of South Geor­gia. Seve­ral heli­c­op­ters are used to drop lar­ge volu­mes of bait during a strict­ly defi­ned, very sophisti­ca­ted flight pat­tern in short time peri­ods when wea­ther allows fly­ing. Wea­ther con­di­ti­ons during the first main pha­se were very chal­len­ging, but “team rat” mana­ged to com­ple­te their task suc­cessful­ly after initi­al­ly having been dri­ven to near des­pair when strong winds and poor visi­bi­li­ty kept the heli­c­op­ters on ground for quite some time.

The pro­ject is sche­du­led to be com­ple­ted in 2015. So, curr­ent­ly rats are still roa­ming on lar­ge parts of South Geor­gia, and many more flight hours are requi­red to bring the work to a good end. Con­trol of the rat popu­la­ti­on on a low level is not pos­si­ble, it is eit­her suc­cess in terms of an abso­lut­e­ly com­ple­te era­di­ca­ti­on or a total fail­ure, not­hing in bet­ween. In case only one pregnant fema­le sur­vi­ves, the popu­la­ti­on would increase again very quick­ly and the effort would have been in vane. This means that the com­ple­ti­on of the pro­ject can­not be post­po­ned for a long time, also con­side­ring the rapid gla­cier retre­at. First sightin­gs of bree­ding South Geor­gia pipits in are­as whe­re they had not been bree­ding for deca­des is among­st the evi­dence for the suc­cess that has alre­a­dy been achie­ved, show­ing it is worth every effort to give the island back to mil­li­ons of sea­birds that had been bree­ding the­re for thou­sands of years until the sea­lers and wha­lers brought the rats.

Suc­cess will now depend on wea­ther and, as too often in life, money: the immense logi­stics nee­ded to move the team, equip­ment, bait and heli­c­op­ters to South Geor­gia, whe­re no heli­c­op­ters are available, requi­re lar­ge-sca­le fun­ding in the order of mil­li­ons. The South Geor­gia Heri­ta­ge Trust app­re­cia­tes every dona­ti­on ( click here for more infor­ma­ti­on on this ).

It is also pos­si­ble to buy items which are nice to have and nice as pres­ents to sup­port the pro­ject, such as James McQuilken’s book The Mists of Time, the moving life sto­ry of Cym­ba, a Wan­de­ring alba­tross. The pre­sent aut­hor has trans­la­ted this book into Ger­man as Die Nebel der Zeit to sup­port the pro­ject. In 2014, sales of Die Nebel der Zeit rai­sed money to sup­port the work of the habi­tat res­to­ra­ti­on pro­ject on 2 hec­ta­res of South Geor­gia. Far from enough, but every con­tri­bu­ti­on makes a dif­fe­rence!

In 2014 the book Die Nebel der Zeit finan­ced the habi­tat res­to­ra­ti­on pro­ject on 2 hec­ta­res of South Geor­gia.

Die Nebel der Zeit: Unterstützung für Südgeorgien

South Geor­gia pipit nest in Schlie­per Bay. The­re and in other, lar­ge parts of South Geor­gia, they had not been able to breed for deca­des.

South Georgia pipit nest

Source: South Geor­gia Heri­ta­ge Trust


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