Rattus norvegicus

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.

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.

The inhabited Isles of Scilly, 45 km off the south-western tip of the UK, are home to 13 seabird species including European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) and Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus), for which the UK has a global responsibility. Between 1983 and 2006, the overall seabird population in Scilly declined by c.25%. This decline triggered the establishment of the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project, a partnership with the aims to reverse seabird decline and engage the local community and visitors in conserving Scilly’s seabird heritage.

As part of the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project, and directed by Wildlife Management International Ltd, the eradication of brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) from the inhabited islands of St Agnes & Gugh, Isles of Scilly was completed between October 2013 and April 2014 with the assistance of volunteers, and staff from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust and Natural England. Bait stations with cereal-based wax blocks containing bromadiolone at 0.005% w/w were established on a 40–50 metre grid over the island.

Bense and Little Bense Islands (144 ha total area) have, for over a century, supported populations of three introduced pest mammals: Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus), house mouse (Mus musculus), and European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). An operation to eradicate these mammals simultaneously was undertaken in winter 2016. Cereal pellets laced with brodifacoum (25 ppm) were hand-broadcast on both islands in two applications with 3,900 kg of bait applied in total. Baiting transects were spaced at 20 m intervals and bait-throwing positions located every 20 m along each transect.