Thursday, February 16, 2012

The great South Georgia rat crisis

'Wanted: one Pied Piper for mass rat-luring operation. Must like travel." So might the job description have run for the manager of a major rodent cull planned this year for the remote British territory of South Georgia in the south Atlantic, where rats introduced by whaling ships are wiping out many of the island's 80 bird species.
In the end, the South Georgia Heritage Trust has opted for a rather more failsafe operation: deploying helicopters to scatter tonnes of rat poison across the island in a bid to stop the pests devouring eggs and chicks.
Though the scheme is billed as the largest rat-killing spree ever attempted, it's not the first time this technique has been used. A smaller pilot project was carried out on South Georgia last year, and rats were eliminated in this way on Campbell Island, New Zealand, in 2001. The RSPB also co-managed another cull last year on Henderson Island in the South Pacific; a ship travelled there from Seattle with two helicopters, sailing via several remote atolls, and eradicating bird-killing rats as it went. Who needs the Pied Piper?

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