Ship rats

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.

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.

Think of a challengeing conservation problem you have encounteres - protecting a rare species, winning support for legislation, cleaning up a river, or sustainably managing a forest.

Since 1999, the black rat (Rattus rattus) has been eradicated from 14 Italian islands, and eradication is ongoing on a further five islands. Most projects were funded by the European Union (EU) Life Programme. Over the years, eradication techniques have been improved and adapted to different situations, including aerial bait distribution on islands with large inaccessible areas, which otherwise would have relied on a manual bait distribution.

The Chagos Archipelago comprises some 58 islands covering 5,000 ha in the centre of the Indian Ocean. Black rats (Rattus rattus) were introduced about 230 years ago and have likely had a severe impact on the native terrestrial fauna, which is dominated by seabirds and land crabs. Most of the archipelago’s terrestrial land mass is vegetated with old coconut plantations, with over 75% of the native forest cleared for coconut from 26 of the largest islands.

Invasive black rats (Rattus rattus) were successfully eradicated during 2012 from Pinzon Island in the Galapagos archipelago using the rodenticide brodifacoum. Potential exposure to brodifacoum in Pinzon tortoises (Chelonoidis ephippium), Pinzon lava lizards (Microlophus duncanensis) and Galapagos hawks (Buteo galapagoensis) was mitigated by captive holding of subpopulations. This was successful for all species during and shortly after baiting, however mortality of Galapagos hawks occurred post-release, likely due to the persistence of residual brodifacoum in lava lizards.

Despite the presence of invasive black rats (Rattus rattus), common mynas (Acridotheres tristis), and feral domestic cats (Felis catus), sooty terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) breed in large numbers on Ascension Island in the tropical South Atlantic Ocean. These introduced predators impact the terns by destroying eggs or interrupting incubation (mynas), eating eggs (mynas and rats), eating chicks (rats and cats), or eating adults (cats). Between 1990 and 2015, 26 censuses of sooty terns and five of mynas were completed and myna predation was monitored on 10 occasions.