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Monthly Archives: May 2018 − News & Stories

South Geor­gia rat era­di­ca­ti­on pro­ject suc­cessful

The “South Geor­gia Habi­tat Restau­ra­ti­on Pro­ject” has been fol­lo­wed in seve­ral news posts on this web­site befo­re. This ambi­tious pro­ject is aimed at get­ting rid of all rats on the island of South Geor­gia.

Rats are a serious thre­at for sea­birds. Sea­bird popu­la­ti­ons on South Geor­gia have always been impres­si­ve, but small in com­pa­ri­son to what they must have been like in times befo­re the wha­lers inci­den­tal­ly intro­du­ced rats to the island. On remo­te islands which do not have natu­ral pre­da­tors, sea­birds nest on flat ground or in bur­rows, in any case easi­ly acces­si­ble for rats which eat eggs and chicks in mas­si­ve num­bers. After mil­li­ons of years wit­hout rats or other ter­restri­al pre­da­tors, sea­birds do not have effec­ti­ve mecha­nisms of defence. Even lar­ge spe­ci­es are con­cer­ned: the­re are obser­va­tions of Wan­de­ring alba­tross chicks being eaten ali­ve on the nest.

South Georgia pipit

The South Geor­gia pipit has retur­ned quick­ly to old bree­ding are­as.

Era­di­ca­ting rats is always chal­len­ging and even more so on such a remo­te, wild and big island. It had been done suc­cessful­ly espe­ci­al­ly by New Zea­land spe­cia­lists on islands such as Camp­bell Island which belongs to New Zea­land. The key tech­ni­que is drop­ping poi­so­ned bait from heli­c­op­ters. The bait and drop­ping tech­ni­que inclu­ding timing are desi­gned to era­di­ca­te rats while mini­mi­sing dama­ge to other wild­life. The main pha­se was com­ple­ted in South Geor­gia in ear­ly 2015.

As the sur­vi­val of only one pregnant fema­le rat could ruin the suc­cess of the who­le pro­ject, the sub­se­quent eva­lua­ti­on peri­od is of utmost importance. This pha­se of inten­se moni­to­ring has been going on in South Geor­gia sin­ce the com­ple­ti­on of the main pha­se. A com­pre­hen­si­ve moni­to­ring expe­di­ti­on has been car­ri­ed out on South Geor­gia during the last aus­tral sum­mer sea­son, invol­ving trai­ned dogs and other tech­ni­ques to make sure no rat could remain unde­tec­ted. The good news is that “Team Rat” could not find any traces of living rats on South Geor­gia, as Neil Ali­son of the South Geor­gia Heri­ta­ge Trust (SGHT) could tell the BBC. A SGHT press release decla­res South Geor­gia rat-free, for the first time in 200 years!

Wanderalbatros auf Prion Island, Südgeorgien

Auch der Wan­der­al­ba­tros wird von rat­ten­frei­en Brut­ge­bie­ten pro­fi­tie­ren.

Birds have star­ted to return to their old bree­ding grounds quick­ly after the rats were gone, inclu­ding the ende­mic South Geor­gia pipit. Until 2015, it was rest­ric­ted to a few places like small, rat-free islands. Sin­ce then, it has retur­ned to many are­as on the main island of South Geor­gia. Also lar­ger spe­ci­es inclu­ding pen­gu­ins and the maje­s­tic Wan­de­ring Alba­tross will bene­fit from rat-free bree­ding grounds.

The SGHT had initia­ted the pro­ject and rai­sed about 10 mil­li­on pounds that were nee­ded main­ly through pri­va­te dona­ti­ons. Tou­rists con­tri­bu­ted about 200,000 pounds per sea­son through auc­tions and dona­ti­ons on crui­se ships to South Geor­gia.


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