Rodents

Invasive species compete with endemic species and if successful can displace native species in the host region (Cororaton et al., 2009).

More than US$21 billion is spent annually on biodiversity conservation. Despite their importance for preventing or slowing extinctions and preserving biodiversity, conservation interventions are rarely assessed systematically for their global impact. Islands house a disproportionately higher amount of biodiversity compared with mainlands, much of which is highly threatened with extinction. Indeed, island species make up nearly two-thirds of recent extinctions. Islands therefore are critical targets of conservation.

The eradication of the seven remaining animal pest species remaining on Rangitoto and Motutapu was announced by the Prime Minister and Minister of Conservation in June 2006. With stoats, cats, hedgehogs, rabbits, mice and two species of rats spread across an area of 3842ha, the proposed project is the most challenging and complex island pest eradication the Department of Conservation (DOC) has ever attempted.

Many neglected tropical zoonotic pathogens are maintained by introduced mammals, and on islands the most common introduced species are rodents, cats, and dogs. Management of introduced mammals, including control or eradication of feral populations, which is frequently done for ecological restoration, could also reduce or eliminate the pathogens these animals carry. Understanding the burden of these zoonotic diseases is crucial for quantifying the potential public health benefits of introduced mammal management.

New Zealand, an archipelago of more than 2000 islands, has a terrestrial fauna especially depauperate in native land mammals. Kiore (Rattus exulans) was the first of four rodent species introduced by people. A project to eradicate invasive rats from Kapiti Island in 1996, represented a turning point in the technology, complexity and scale at which managers of natural heritage on New Zealand islands could operate. This paper includes case studies of some significant projects targeting rodents, sometimes with other introduced mammals, undertaken in the 12 years following Kapiti.

New Zealand’s offshore and outlying islands have long been a focus of conservation biology as sites of local endemism and as last refuges for many species. During the c. 730 years since New Zealand has been settled by people, mammalian predators have invaded many islands and caused local and global extinctions. New Zealand has led international efforts in island restoration. By the late 1980s, translocations of threatened birds to predator-free islands were well under way to safeguard against extinction.

Aerial baiting from helicopters with a bait-sowing bucket and GPS to ensure coverage with anticoagulant toxins in cereal-based baits can reliably eradicate rodents on islands. Current best practice for temperate islands is to bait in winter when the rodents are not breeding, rodent numbers are lowest so competition for toxic baits is lowest, natural food is likely to be scarce, and many non-target species are absent from the island. However, short winter day lengths at high latitudes restrict the time helicopters can fly and poor weather in winter may increase risks of failure.

Invasive rodents are present on approximately 80% of the world’s islands and constitute one of the most serious threats to island biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The eradication of rodents is central to island conservation eff orts and the aerial broadcast of rodenticide bait is the preferred dispersal method. To improve the efficiency of rodent eradication campaigns, the generation of accurate and real-time bait density maps is required.

Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels (SSRS), launched in 2009, is a project to stop the decline of core populations of Scotland’s native red squirrel. It is a partnership project between Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and the Red Squirrel Survival Trust. The aim is the containment of the invasive non-native grey squirrel, which poses a dual threat to red squirrels through competition and disease transmission.

In locations with a high potential for re-invasion, such as inshore islands, sustained control of invasive species is as important as the initial knock-down for the long-term recovery of native populations. However, ongoing trap maintenance and lure replenishment are barriers to minimising the time and financial costs of long-term suppression, even when automatic traps are used.