Management Action

The world is facing a biodiversity crisis. Nowhere is that more apparent than on oceanic islands where invasive species are a major threat for island biodiversity. Rats are one of the most detrimental of these and have been the target of numerous eradication programmes; a well-established conservation tool for island systems.

House mice (Mus musculus) were introduced to South Africa’s sub-Antarctic Marion Island, the larger of the two Prince Edward Islands, by sealers in the early 19th century. Over the last two centuries they have greatly reduced the abundance of native invertebrates. Domestic cats (Felis catus) taken to the island in 1948 to control mice at the South African weather station soon turned feral, killing large numbers of breeding seabirds. An eradication programme finally removed cats from the island by 1991, in what is still the largest island area cleared of cats at 290 km2.

Invasive black rats (Rattus rattus) were successfully eradicated during 2012 from Pinzon Island in the Galapagos archipelago using the rodenticide brodifacoum. Potential exposure to brodifacoum in Pinzon tortoises (Chelonoidis ephippium), Pinzon lava lizards (Microlophus duncanensis) and Galapagos hawks (Buteo galapagoensis) was mitigated by captive holding of subpopulations. This was successful for all species during and shortly after baiting, however mortality of Galapagos hawks occurred post-release, likely due to the persistence of residual brodifacoum in lava lizards.

The Falkland Islands have been affected by anthropogenic-induced habitat modifi cation including introduction of invasive species and grazing by livestock. Introduced Norway rats are known to have a large effect on native Falklands passerines but their effect on other native birds has not been explored. We investigated the effects of several environmental

The introduction of invasive rats, goats, and rhesus macaques to Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge, Puerto Rico led to the extirpation of regionally signifi cant seabird colonies and negatively impacted plant and endemic reptile species. In 2012, following the successful removal of goats and macaques from Desecheo, an attempt to remove black rats using aerially broadcast rodenticide and bait stations was unsuccessful.

Rat eradication techniques developed in New Zealand are a proven method for removing invasive rodents from islands worldwide. This technology moved rapidly from ground-based bait station operations to aerial application of rodenticides. Rat eradications on tropical islands using similar methods, have not always been as successful as those in temperate regions. As most previous eradications in the Caribbean have been on islands smaller than 50 ha, the eradication of black rats (Rattus rattus) from 207 ha Dog Island was a significant increase in size.

Rodent eradications in tropical environments are often more challenging and less successful than those in temperate environments. Reduced seasonality and the lack of a defined annual resource pulse influence rodent population dynamics differently than the well-defined annual cycles on temperate islands, so an understanding of rodent ecology and population dynamics is important to maximise the chances of eradication success in the tropics.

Rodent eradications are a useful tool for the restoration of native biodiversity on islands, but occasionally these operations incur non-target mortality. Changes in cereal bait colour could potentially mitigate these impacts but must not compromise the eradication operation. Changing bait colour may reduce mortality of Henderson crakes (Zapornia atra), an endemic globally threatened flightless bird on Henderson Island, Pitcairn Islands, South Pacific Ocean. Crakes had high non-target mortality in a failed 2011 rat eradication operation and consumed fewer blue than green cereal pellets.

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.