Invasive vertebrates are a leading cause of the extinction on islands and rats (Rattus spp.) are one of the most damaging to island ecosystems. Methods to eradicate rates from islands are well established and there have been over 580 successful eradications to date. Increasingly, rat eradications are being implemented on tropical islands, a reflection of the need to protect the threatened biodiversity in the tropics. Yet rat eradications on tropical islands fail more frequently than those in temperate climates.

The use of rodenticides to control or eradicate invasive rats (Rattus spp.) for conservation purposes has rapidly grown in the past decades, especially on islands. The non-target consequences and the fate of toxicant residue from such rodent eradication operations have not been well explored. In a cooperative effort, we monitored the application of a rodenticide, ‘Brodifacoum 25W: Conservation’, during an attempt to eradicate Rattus rattus from Palmyra Atoll.

Invasive rodents have an overwhelmingly detrimental impact to native flora and fauna on islands. Rodent eradications from islands have led to valuable biodiversity conservation outcomes. Tropical islands present an additional suite of challenges for rat eradications due to unique characteristics associated with these environments. To date tropical island rat eradications have failed at a higher rate than those undertaken outside the tropics. Critical knowledge gaps exist in our understanding of what drives this outcome.

Invasive rats are found on most island groups of the world, and usually more than one species has invaded. On tropical islands populations of different invasive rat species can co-exist on very small islands, but the population dynamics of such co-existing rat species, their impact on each other, and the mechanisms of coexistence are not well known. This lack of knowledge is a barrier to improving the success rate of tropical island rat eradications.

Rodents remain one of the most widespread and damaging invasive alien species on islands globally. The current toolbox for insular rodent eradications is reliant on the application of sufficient anticoagulant toxicant into every potential rodent territory across an island. Despite significant advances in the use of these toxicants over recent decades, numerous situations remain where eradication is challenging or not yet feasible.

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.