Long term rodent control in Rdum tal-Madonna yelkouan shearwater colony

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ISBN: 978-2-8317-1961-0
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.CH.2019.SSC-OP.62.en
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Long term rodent control in Rdum tal-Madonna yelkouan shearwater colony

Rodent predation on eggs and chicks is one of the main threats to procellariiform species in the Mediterranean, where the black rat (Rattus rattus) and brown rat (R. norvegicus) have been present on many islands for centuries. The yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) is an endemic Mediterranean seabird species classified as vulnerable. Malta holds up to 10% of the global population; the largest colony, Rdum tal-Madonna (RM), protected as a Natura 2000 site, hosts around 500 breeding pairs. This colony has been monitored since its discovery in 1969. A very low reproductive success due to rat predation was noticed in the late 1990s to early 2000s. In 2007 a seasonal rodent control programme was established during the breeding season of yelkouan shearwater to reduce rat predation on eggs and chicks. Rodent control took place between 2007 and 2010 and was reviewed and continued from 2012 to 2017. Breeding success since 2007 has been higher than 80%. In two other colonies with rat presence and where rodent control did not take place, the breeding success in 2016 and 2017 was substantially lower than in the colony with the rodent control programme. The European storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis) only breeds in rat-free areas like remote sea caves or islets around the Maltese islands. In 2014, the first breeding attempt by European storm-petrel was recorded on the Maltese mainland at RM with a chick fledging successfully for the first time in 2016. The ongoing LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija project is assessing rat predation in all Maltese yelkouan shearwater colonies in order to establish predator control in the most important yelkouan shearwater breeding sites in 2018.

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