The British Overseas Territory of South Georgia in the South Atlantic seems to have successfully eradicated its rat problem in history’s largest rodent extermination program ever conducted.
A recent survey of the island failed to find any trace of the rats that had been attacking and killing the local bird population. This outcome is a victory for the South Georgia Heritage Trust which is the Scottish charity that led a 10 million pound campaign to protect the island’s biodiversity from the rodent plague.
During the operation, helicopters flew over the island and systematically released poison pellets across the coastal fringes of the island. The operation took place in 3 stages with the first beginning in 2010.
However, international standard for best practise required that they wait 2 years after the last pellets were dropped before assessing the success of the work. The final assessments have just been completed, one involving a combing of the island with sniffer dogs.
Several traps had also been set with tempting “chew sticks” that were pasted with some peanut butter. However, no rats seem to have taken the bait, indicating that they truly are extinct from the island.
Scientists were cautious with their optimism initially, expecting a hidden enclave to have survived somewhere on the island. However they have been pleased to announce that there has been no sign of any rodents had been seen on the island for the last 6 months.
The island is a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all around the world who wish to see its diverse wildlife, especially it’s bird species of which over 30 nest on the island.
These large bird populations, especially with a large presence of adolescent birds, attracted populations of rodents to gain a foothold on the island. The rodents were known to be particularly vicious, eating birds alive in packs.
The extermination of the vermin means that the natural biodiversity of the island can be preserved.