Ship rats

Seabirds are notoriously sensitive to introduced mammalian predators and eradication programs have benefitted seabird populations and their habitats on numerous islands throughout the world. However, less evidence is available from the tropics as to the benefits of rat eradication. Here, we report the seabird recovery and vegetation dynamics on a small coralline island of the tropical western Indian Ocean, eight years after Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) eradication.

Rat eradication has become a common conservation intervention in island ecosystems and its effectiveness in protecting native vertebrates is increasingly well documented. Yet, the impacts of rat eradication on plant communities remain poorly understood. Here we compare native and non-native tree and palm seedling abundance before and after eradication of invasive rats (Rattus Rattus) from Palmyra Atoll, Line Islands, Central Pacific Ocean. Overall, seedling recruitment increased for five of the six native trees species examined.

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 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.

The black rat, roof rat, or ship rat (Rattus rattus L.) is among the most widespread invasive vertebrates on islands and continents, and it is nearly ubiquitous on Pacific islands from the equatorial tropics to approximately 55 degrees latitude north and south. It survives well in human-dominated environments, natural areas, and islands where humans are not present. Rattus rattus is typically the most common invasive rodent in insular forests. Few vertebrates are more problematic to island biota and human livelihoods than R.

The three most invasive rat species, black or ship rat Rattus rattus, brown or Norway rats, R. norvegicus and Pacific rat, R. exulans have been incrementally introduced to islands as humans have explored the world’s oceans. They have caused serious deleterious effects through predation and competition, and extinction of many species on tropical islands, many of which are biodiversity hotspots. All three rat species are found in virtually all habitat types, including mangrove and arid shrub land.

The eradication of some introduced pests such as rats, stoats and possums in New Zealand seems increasingly feasible with successful action to date in various cities (e.g. Wellington City) and with the government’s national 2050 predator-free goal. Here we specifically detail the potential benefits of urban rat eradication and find these cover a wide range of topics including a potentially reduced risk of infection from at least seven zoonotic diseases (e.g. leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, trichinellosis, murine typhus; and three enteric diseases).

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.

Breeding success of 5 Cory’s shearwater Calonectris diomedea sub-colonies of Lavezzu Island (Lavezzi Archipelago, Corsica) was checked annually for 25 consecutive years from 1979 to 2004. Between 1989 and 1994, 4 ship rat Rattus rattus controls were performed in several subcolonies. In November 2000, rats were eradicated from Lavezzu Island and its 16 peripheral islets (85 ha) using traps then toxic baits. We compare cost (number of person-hours required in the field) and benefit (Cory’s shearwater breeding success) of control and eradication.