Rodents

Rodents are a key pest to agricultural and rural island communities of the South Pacific, but there is limited information of their impact on the crops and livelihoods of small-scale farmers.

The influence on crop damage of Rattus norvegicus, Rattus rattus, and the native Polynesian rat, Rattus exulans, was studied during the establishment of a rat control program for the Tongan Department of Agriculture in 1969. This was the first long-term study of Tongan rodents. Previous scientific literature on Tongan mammals is very sparse. The Kingdom of Tonga, or Friendly Islands, consists of approximately 150 small islands with a combined area of about 256 square miles at lat 21 0 S.

Ship rats (rattus rattus) is the only species of rat not found on Atiu.

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.

Rodent eradications are a key island restoration activity to counteract extinction and endangerment to native species. Despite the widespread use of brodifacoum as a rodenticide for island restoration, there has been little examination of its potential negative effects on native reptiles. Here we examined the survival of two endemic insular lizard populations before, during and after a brodifacoum-based rodent eradication using a mark-recapture study.

Aerial broadcast application is currently one of the most common methods for conducting rodent eradications on islands, particularly islands greater than 100 ha or with complex and difficult topography where access by ground teams is difficult. Overall, aerial broadcast applications have a high success rate, but can be burdened by logistical, regulatory, and environmental challenges. This is particularly true for islands where complex shorelines, sheer terrain, and the interface with the marine environment pose additional risks and concerns.