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Earth Science

Large Island Declared Rat-Free in Biggest Removal Success (nationalgeographic.com) 134

An anonymous reader shares a report: A remote, freezing, salt-spray lashed paradise for wildlife has been completely cleared of rats in the largest rodent eradication of all time, the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) announced this week. Rats are smart, adaptable, and hungry. For all these reasons, they can be incredibly voracious predators when people accidentally introduce them to remote islands, where the local animals lack evolved defenses to rodents. They have flourished even on an island as harsh and cold as South Georgia, which is so far south that it hosts penguins, elephant seals, and fur seals, as well as massive permanent glaciers.

"There are no trees, there are no bushes. All nest on the ground or underground in burrows," says Mike Richardson, Chairman of the SGHT Habitat Restoration Project Steering Committee. Such nests are easy pickings for rats. The rats -- brought to the island by whalers and sealers as early as the late 18th century -- ate the eggs and vulnerable chicks of seabirds, including albatrosses, skua, terns, and petrels. They also threatened two birds with extinction that are found nowhere else in the world: the South Georgia Pipit -- a tiny speckled songbird -- and the South Georgia Pintail, a brown duck.

The rat eradication was a massive, arduous undertaking, costing more than $13 million and taking nearly a decade. More than 300 metric tons of poison bait was dropped on the island by helicopter in three separate trips during the Austral Summers of 2010-2011, 2012-2013, and 2014-2015. Poisoned rats tend to head underground to die, Richardson says, limiting the damage caused to birds like gulls that might have otherwise eaten the poison-tainted carcasses.

Large Island Declared Rat-Free in Biggest Removal Success

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  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @08:09AM (#56594524)

    A volcano will do that!

  • Weasel Island is still open. Visit The Civil War prison and the amusement park.
  • by Barny ( 103770 ) <bakadamage-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Friday May 11, 2018 @08:33AM (#56594660) Journal

    Can you do the Whitehouse next?

    • How about the entirety of the Washington DC metro area?

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How about the entirety of the Washington DC metro area?

        Nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by higuita ( 129722 )

        how about all USA?!
        After that, we can take care of the remaining problems more easily! :D

    • Counts as humor on slashdot.

      Of course, if one had said this about the previous president, one would "clearly" be a racist.

      • by Barny ( 103770 )

        Absolutely. I am racist against all politicians.

        Just remember, you were the one who brought race into it.

  • It had to be rats...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 11, 2018 @08:45AM (#56594710)

    The introduction of touch screens, tablets, and smart pens has greatly reduced their ecosystem. Should mice be considered at danger of extinction ?

  • Hooray! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ghosthorseman ( 2708223 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @08:55AM (#56594764)
    We introduced an invasive species and then destroyed them again at some cost to the environment. I hope it's clear that the villain in this story was not the rats.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jellomizer ( 103300 )

      Why do we need to vilify anything?

      The time invasive species were introduced, the impact of such action wasn't known or the expected impact seems less the the reward of doing so. I know my life style isn't carbon neutral. While I try to reduce the pollution, fuel efficient cars, Using Wood Pellets vs Oil for heat, recycling what I can... I know there is much more I can do if I need to a net positive to the environment. Heck how much carbon is wasted on these posts on Slashdot?
      But the point is we do things

    • We introduced an invasive species and then destroyed them again at some cost to the environment. I hope it's clear that the villain in this story was not the rats.

      They're not vegetarians, of course they are!

    • Re:Hooray! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @10:04AM (#56595182)

      I hope it's clear that the villain in this story was not the rats.

      There was no villain in this story at all.

      Humans accidentally introduced a species, not on purpose. Humans then spent a lot of money and effort to understand and eradicate that species with minimal impact to the environment. Your "cost" is expected to be entirely negligible over time and no permanent damage has occurred.

      Unless Dr Evil actually has his lair hidden on that island there's no villains to be found.

  • I've heard of them, but I've never actually seen one in real life, since I live in Alberta, a province free of rats [theglobeandmail.com].

    Of course, we're not really a "removal success" since we kept them out in the first place.

    • ...since I live in Alberta, a province free of rats.

      HA! If anyone *actually* believes that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you...

      • by JMZero ( 449047 )

        I've never seen a wild rat in Alberta. Lots of mice and mosquitoes. Sometimes a rabbit or coyote in my back yard. No rats.

    • by umghhh ( 965931 )
      and there is no activists fighting for rats rights etc? I am deeply shocked.
    • I've heard of them, but I've never actually seen one in real life, since I live in Alberta, a province free of rats [theglobeandmail.com]

      Alberta is free of rats because they’re scared of the marmots.

  • In principle, stronger species replacing weaker ones is what evolution is about. Who are we to exterminate the species that succeeded? Even if we played some initial role in introducing them, it's their own fitness that got them to great numbers. Maybe intelligent successors of hardy rats will do archeological research on slashdot archives long after humans offed themselves of perished in a natural disaster. In the meantime, rat meat is eaten in a lot of cultures and rats can obviously be raised in great nu

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In principle, stronger species replacing weaker ones is what evolution is about. Who are we to exterminate the species that succeeded?

      The stronger species. Is this a trick question or something?

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Think global, eat local.

      We serve only the finest New York City rats.

    • "Stronger" is a very poor term to use. Adaptation is dependent on the local environment and ecology. Often the invasive species has simply escaped the predators or diseases that keep them in check back home. A plant that takes over a new environment from native species that have local pathogens to contend with because it arrived without its native pathogens is not "stronger" it is just lucky.

  • What ever the rats were eating may now end up with a massive increase in population, and the excreta that the rats generated had to be fertilizing something, so at least one other species won't do as well, and there will be knock on effects from that.

    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @10:08AM (#56595212)

      What ever the rats were eating may now end up with a massive increase in population..

      Well... yeah. That was the entire point of the project.

    • by pz ( 113803 )

      The summary and a nice excerpt from linked articles by Okian Warrior above pretty well says that the rats were so voraciously feeding on the eggs of indigenous birds that they were driving them to the edge of extinction. I sure hope that there are indeed knock on effects, like rebound of the affected species!

    • by barakn ( 641218 )

      They were eating seabirds, which are famous for fertilizing shorelines with their excreta. There may be a population explosion of seabirds, but since their feeding occurs out in a vast ocean, their increased presence will be a drop in the bucket.

    • What ever the rats were eating may now end up with a massive increase in population

      No shit sherlock, that was the entire point of the erradication, they were killing and eating the local wildlife population.

      , and the excreta that the rats generated had to be fertilizing something, so at least one other species won't do as well, and there will be knock on effects from that.

      Rats are not native to the environment on the island, hence a pest. Anything dependent on them can only also be a recent introduction so if it kills off other introduced species all the better. The island is mostly barrow with just ground shrub and I seriously doubt the Rats were providing any benefit that the birds couldn't.

  • great (Score:1, Troll)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 )
    rats gone. now lets do the same with muslims in the west
  • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @10:05AM (#56595192) Journal
    I've read this headline several times. My biggest question is, where is this taking place?

    Southern Georgia [wikipedia.org]
    Southern Georgia [wikipedia.org]
    Apparently it's South Georgia. [wikipedia.org] Which I thought I had never heard of, but my browser's search history tells me otherwise.
    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      I've read this headline several times. My biggest question is, where is this taking place? Southern Georgia [wikipedia.org] Southern Georgia [wikipedia.org] Apparently it's South Georgia. [wikipedia.org] Which I thought I had never heard of, but my browser's search history tells me otherwise.

      What the heck is up with all the ship propellers [google.com] on the Stromness beach? I can't fathom any reason for this whatsoever.

      • I can't fathom any reason for this whatsoever.

        From a quick search it was a former whaling station which featured among other things a floating ship repair yard. In the 30s it looks like they just dumped the props on the beach, but if you look at the pictures you'll see there's plenty of other industrial litter from their repair operations still laying around.

  • Let's eradicate the rats in the various capitals. We need lobbyists with poison checks, that should be the right bait.
    • The lobbyists are more than half the problem.
      • by Shotgun ( 30919 )

        No, they're not. Biggest open secret in Washington. EVERY group is a special interest group.

        The problem is the lobbyists having *private* access to lawmakers. As part of their job, they should all be equipped with 360 degree body webcams from the time the enter office until the time they leave.

  • by Aliks ( 530618 ) on Friday May 11, 2018 @10:33AM (#56595474)

    We were down in South Georgia a couple of years ago and the locals were talking about the various eradication programs.

    Some time ago, reindeer were introduced in an attempt to create some sort of farming/hunting but of course the reindeer denuded the local grasses to the detriment of indigenous creatures. Culling the reindeer is a sight easier than culling rats, just needs a couple of guys with rifles.

    We actually saw the last of a small reindeer herd in one of the bays, peacefully grazing.

  • My first thought was they'd be back on the next boat in, but if the bait actually worked (rats are incredibly suspicious and I'd have figured them to strongly prefer eggs) and there's a lot left, there's nothing alive on the island that's adapted.

    • Rat's might be suspicious but Warfarin and it's analogs are colorless, tasteless and odorless. Anything poisoned with it is undetectable to animals.

  • It would have been much easier and cheaper: (Skyfall Rat Scene) https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • Hawaii is attempting a novel method for rat eradication right now. While effective against rats, it seems to also be eradicating homes. Collateral damage is always a risk...
  • ... to go on a ratting safari with a bunch of terriers [youtube.com].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I hope so, they are just as bad.

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