seabirds

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.

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.

In winter 2016, the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) eradicated mice (Mus musculus) from the Antipodes Islands located at 49°S 178°E, 760 km south-east of New Zealand’s South Island. Mice were the only mammalian pest species present. They have extensively impacted the abundance and survival of invertebrates, with likely secondary impacts on endemic terrestrial birds and nesting seabird fauna. Public-private partnerships with DOC instigated the project and provided essential financial support.

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.

This review of the invasive land vertebrates present on islands of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) region is part of a larger review of the invasive plants and animals that have affected these islands adversely.

Rats were eradicated in 2005–2006 from the islands of Canna and Sanday, Scotland (total area 1,320 ha). Poison bait was laid from December 2005 onwards and the last rat was killed in February 2006. An intensive period of monitoring over the next two years con?rmed that no rats remained on the islands. Seabirds have been monitored on Canna for nearly 50 years and some species have shown good evidence of recovery since the eradication.

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.

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.