Ratted out
July 24, 2017 2:05 PM   Subscribe

"A forgotten Eden, belonging only to albatrosses, penguins and seals, South Georgia is one of the most remote islands on the planet....We were there for a simple purpose – to free South Georgia from the rats that had plagued the island for almost two hundred years."

We were also running out of time. Due to global warming, South Georgia’s glaciers are retreating at a rate of up to one metre a day. Soon beaches would become exposed, allowing rats to cross to previously inaccessible parts of the island and creating areas too extensive to bait. For the project to be a success we had to eliminate all of the rats. 99% wouldn’t be good enough; we had to get every last one.

South Georgia Rat-Eradication Project - South Georgia Heritage Trust:

At 100,000 hectares in size, the area of South Georgia being cleared is more than eight times larger than Campbell Island (New Zealand), which at 11,300 hectares is the largest island ever cleared of rodents until now. However, as South Georgia’s rodent population is divided into a number of independent units by the island’s sea-level glaciers, eradication of all rodents is feasible. The eradication operation on South Georgia has required three helicopters, approximately 300 tonnes of rodent bait and three seasons to complete the baiting work.

South Georgia rat eradication mission sets sail

Rare birds return to remote South Georgia island after successful rat eradication programme

World's largest rat extermination returns South Georgia to its bird life
posted by mandolin conspiracy (21 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 


I like this a lot.
posted by pracowity at 2:37 PM on July 24, 2017


Reindeer were exterminated too; Matt Ridley, government press release.
posted by StephenB at 2:43 PM on July 24, 2017


Having just watched Skyfall again last night, I have to ask, is this how they did it?
posted by VTX at 3:20 PM on July 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


For the project to be a success we had to eliminate all of the rats. 99% wouldn’t be good enough; we had to get every last one.

Am I the only one who feels sorry for the poor rats?
posted by chavenet at 3:27 PM on July 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


You have to admire the rat's ability to survive in such a hostile place. That said, death to rats!
posted by Bee'sWing at 3:28 PM on July 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


you can feel sorry for the poor resourceful rats while also feeling sorrier for the widdle decerebrated birds.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 3:39 PM on July 24, 2017 [9 favorites]


Rats have a lot of places they can live, rare seabirds not so much. I do feel a bit sorry for that last lonely male reindeer, but they had to go too.
posted by tavella at 3:46 PM on July 24, 2017 [12 favorites]


Having had a rat do $5k+ worth of damage to my car early this year - with it chewing through several internal panels and the rear seats, a seat belt, and a infant safety seat, I'm ok with this.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the project will have worked, or if there will be reserves of rats who either don't like the bait or were living in places that somehow got missed? There just aren't that many places like this, that are sufficiently small and remote to be able to take on a project like this -- for the same of the birds, I hope it works, though I suspect the rats will eventually find a way back.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:21 PM on July 24, 2017


Based on what I've heard about genetic engineering to wipe out pink boll worms and mosquitoes - I'm surprised they did not try GE'd rats.

(and yea, its not like rats are rare and need protection as a global species)
posted by rough ashlar at 6:14 PM on July 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Dip Flash - I imagine they will be monitoring traps and bird nest quite extensively. On pest free islands in NZ they regularly check the pest traps to make sure that they're empty and have quarantine procedures for any boat that arrives.
posted by poxandplague at 7:11 PM on July 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


There just aren't that many places like this, that are sufficiently small and remote to be able to take on a project like this

Ecologists do rat eradication on small islands all the time. It's pretty successful as long as they aren't constantly being reintroduced by people
posted by fshgrl at 7:25 PM on July 24, 2017 [4 favorites]


Am I the only one who feels sorry for the poor rats?

That weeping and wailing you hear in the distance is PETA, who is more than willing to sacrifice the rare birds in order to save the rats.

Ecologists do rat eradication on small islands all the time. It's pretty successful as long as they aren't constantly being reintroduced by people

On a larger individual scale, feral pigs were eliminated from the Santa Barbara Channel Islands in order to save the Channel Island Fox. that also caused some "animal activists" to become very upset.
posted by happyroach at 8:33 PM on July 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


That weeping and wailing you hear in the distance is PETA, who is more than willing to sacrifice the rare birds in order to save the rats.

I am extremely rodent-friendly, but, wait...
THE FUCKING BIRDS ARE FUCKING ANIMALS TOO! (And, I suspect, much better animal PR.)
posted by Samizdata at 9:05 PM on July 24, 2017


Every species that goes extinct destoys 4 billion years of hard and bloody evolution. Rats will be around to see us off, don't feel too bad for this small group of them.
posted by benzenedream at 10:40 PM on July 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Having had a rat do $5k+ worth of damage to my car early this year...

Sure, but have you ever had your car infested with millions of seabirds?
posted by ryanrs at 11:29 PM on July 24, 2017 [3 favorites]


Based on what I've heard about genetic engineering to wipe out pink boll worms and mosquitoes - I'm surprised they did not try GE'd rats.

They did. Now rats have x-ray vision, super speed, and the ability to see seventy-three years, four months, twelve days, fifty-two minutes, and eight point seven three seconds into the future. They're trying to dial it back to ultraviolet, barely supersonic, and an even twenty-four hours, but since all they can do is randomly knock out genes, they're just hitting the ones for glossier coats, slightly bigger ears, and dozens of barbed tentacles wriggling where their legs would be if their legs were hovering five and a half feet off the ground.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:57 PM on July 24, 2017 [8 favorites]


On a larger individual scale, feral pigs were eliminated from the Santa Barbara Channel Islands in order to save the Channel Island Fox. that also caused some "animal activists" to become very upset.

They also eradicated rats and cats from several islands. You might think you know what the word upset means but no, no you don't until you try to poison something using public money in California.
posted by fshgrl at 1:06 AM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]


you don't until you try to poison something using public money in California.

I was in Santa Barbara during the feral pig elimination, when the local newspaper owner was leading the charge against it. I thought that if she liked the pigs so much, she could pay to have them transported to her estate...
posted by happyroach at 9:48 AM on July 25, 2017


SAVE THE INVASIVE EUCALYPTUS
posted by benzenedream at 2:58 PM on July 25, 2017


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