Rats

This encyclopedia illuminates a topic at the forefront of global ecology - biological invasions, or organisms that come to live in the wrong place. Written by leading scientists from around the world, the book addresses all aspects of this subject at a global level - including invasions by animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria - in succinct, alphabetically arranged articles.

The Island of Suwarrow and its surrounding waters was declared a National Park in 1978 under the Conservation Act 1975. The legal opinion sought in 2001 clarifies that Suwarrow is Crown Land. Today, Suwarrow is under the jurisdiction of the National Environment Service (NES) since 2003, for the primary purpose of conserving, preserving, protecting and managing the natural resources of Suwarrow.

To enhance their conservation value, several hundred islands worldwide have been cleared of invasive alien rats, Rattus spp. One of the largest projects yet undertaken was on 43 km2 Henderson Island in the Pitcairn group, South Pacific, in August 2011. Following massive immediate mortality, a single R. exulans was observed in March 2012 and, subsequently, rat numbers have recovered. The survivors show no sign of resistance to the toxicant used, brodifacoum.

Invasive rodents are successful colonists of many ecosystems around the world, and can have very flexible foraging behaviours that lead to differences in spatial ranges and seasonal demography among individuals and islands. Understanding such spatial and temporal information is critical to plan rodent eradication operations, and a detailed examination of an island’s rat population can expand our knowledge about possible variation in behaviour and demography of invasive rats in general.

As part of the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project, and directed by Wildlife Management International Ltd, the eradication of brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) from the inhabited islands of St Agnes & Gugh, Isles of Scilly was completed between October 2013 and April 2014 with the assistance of volunteers, and staff from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Bait stations with cereal-based wax blocks containing bromadiolone at 0.005% w/w were established on a 40–50 metre grid over the island.

This essay offers a 25-year overview of eff orts to remove Pacific rats (Rattus exulans) from the four islands of the Pitcairn group. Following the 1991–1992 discovery that rats were severely reducing breeding success of gadfly petrels (Pterodroma spp.), Wildlife Management International proposed eradication. Eradication success was achieved using ground-based baiting on the small atolls of Ducie and Oeno in 1997, and there is now evidence of petrel recovery on Oeno, but two eradication attempts on inhabited Pitcairn (1997 and 1998) failed.

Bense and Little Bense Islands (144 ha total area) have, for over a century, supported populations of three introduced pest mammals: Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), house mouse (Mus musculus), and European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). An operation to eradicate these mammals simultaneously was undertaken in winter 2016. Cereal pellets laced with brodifacoum (25 ppm) were hand-broadcast on both islands in two applications with 3,900 kg of bait applied in total. Baiting transects were spaced at 20 m intervals and bait-throwing positions located every 20 m along each transect.

Following the incursion of rats (Rattus rattus) on Taukihepa (Big South Cape Island; 93.9 km²) off southern New Zealand in 1963, and the subsequent extirpation of several endemic species, the New Zealand Wildlife Service realised that, contrary to general belief at the time, introduced predators do not reach a natural balance with native species and that a safe breeding habitat for an increasing number of ‘at risk’ species was urgently needed.

Rat eradication is a highly effective tool for conserving biodiversity, but one that requires considerable planning eff ort, a high level of precision during implementation and carries no guarantee of success. Overall, rates of success are generally high but lower for tropical islands where most biodiversity is at risk. We completed a qualitative comparative review on four successful and four unsuccessful tropical rat eradication projects to better understand the factors influencing the success of tropical rat eradications and shed light on how the risk of future failures can be minimised.

A successful ground-based eradication of black rats (Rattus rattus) was undertaken on the remote, uninhabited Shiant Isles of north-west Scotland over winter (14 October–28 March) 2015–16. The rat eradication was carried out as part of the Shiants Seabird Recovery Project, which aims to secure long-term breeding habitat for protected seabirds and to attract European storm petrels and Manx shearwaters to nest on the Shiants.