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Rodent eradication scaled up: clearing rats and mice from South Georgia

  • A. R. Martin (a1) and M. G. Richardson (a2)
Abstract

The Subantarctic island of South Georgia lost most of its birds to predation by rodents introduced by people over 2 centuries. In 2011 a UK charity began to clear brown rats Rattus norvegicus and house mice Mus musculus from the 170 km long, 3,500 km2 island using helicopters to spread bait containing Brodifacoum as the active ingredient. South Georgia's larger glaciers were barriers to rodent movement, resulting in numerous independent sub-island populations. The eradication could therefore be spread over multiple seasons, giving time to evaluate results before recommencing, and also reducing the impact of non-target mortality across the island as a whole. Eradication success was achieved in the 128 km2 Phase 1 trial operation. Work in 2013 (Phase 2) and early 2015 (Phase 3) covered the remaining 940 km2 occupied by rodents. By July 2017, 28 months after baiting was concluded, there was no sign of surviving rodents, other than one apparently newly introduced by ship in October 2014. A survey using detection dogs and passive devices will search the Phase 2 and Phase 3 land for rodents in early 2018. Seven (of 30) species of breeding birds suffered losses from poisoning, but all populations appear to have recovered within 5 years. The endemic South Georgia pipit Anthus antarcticus was the first bird to breed in newly rat-free areas, but there were also signs that cavity-nesting seabirds were exploring scree habitat denied them for generations. Enhanced biosecurity measures on South Georgia are needed urgently to prevent rodents being reintroduced.

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Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
(Corresponding author) E-mail boto@live.co.uk
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Also at: South Georgia Heritage Trust, Verdant Works, Dundee DD1 5BT, UK

Footnotes
References
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Oryx
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  • EISSN: 1365-3008
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