Rat killing spree may save endangered wildlife on remote Pacific islands
May 26, 2008
A team of scientists is on its way to remote the Phoenix Islands Protected Area to eradicate rats that are threatening populations of indigenous seabirds, reports Conservation International, an environmental group.
The expedition, funded by the Government of New Zealand, will seek to eliminate invasive rats from three atolls that serve as breeding grounds for millions of seabirds. The rats — which can eat eggs, kill nestlings, and devour food sources for birds — have triggered a dramatic decline in 11 species of birds. Scientists say that up to 18 species are threatened by the rats.
“Time is running out for many of the seabirds found on the Phoenix Islands,” said Dr Ray Pierce, the expedition leader from New Zealand. “We will focus on three atolls during this trip, which will pave the way for future restoration in the Phoenix and Line Islands.”
If the eradification proves successful scientists will expand the program to other atolls.
“The long-term aim is to rid the Phoenix of all problematic invasive species and prevent any new introductions,” said a statement from Conservation International.
“Eradicating invasive species is the first step in restoring these atolls. The work will include training Phoenix Islands Protected Area management staff on further eradication efforts and raising awareness in Kiribati and the wider region about the threat of invasive species to promote stronger biosecurity.”