Stowaway rats eradicated from British island territory of South Georgia

May 9, 2018
A handout photograph provided by the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) in London on May 9, 2018, shows rodent detection dogs working near King Penguins on the island of South Georgia

Two centuries after rats first landed on the British overseas territory of South Georgia on board sealing and whaling ships, a team of conservationists on Wednesday declared the island rodent-free.

British and US scientists used poisoned bait in the largest rat eradication project of its kind, which cost 10 million pounds (11 million euros, $14 million), lasted a decade and covered 1,087 square kilometres (420 square miles).

"Invasive rodents have been successfully eradicated from the island," Mike Richardson, head of the South Georgia Heritage Trust project, said in a statement.

Rats and mice arrived with the first humans starting in the late 18th century and had "a devastating effect" on the local bird population, the statement said.

The rodents threatened the survival of two species found nowhere else on Earth—the South Georgia pipit and pintail, the conservationists said.

The South Georgia Heritage Trust said these birds were becoming increasingly confined to rodent-free small offshore in the remote archipelago, located in the southern Atlantic off the tip of South America, near Antarctica.

Three dogs were also used to monitor for and mice, covering a total of 2,420 square kilometres.

Scientists said they hoped the eradication programme would prove a model for similar projects around the world to eliminate invasive species.

The island is the burial ground of the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, who died there in 1922, and is home to two scientific research stations run by the British Antarctic Survey.

Explore further: Study reveals most biologically rich island in Southern Ocean

Related Stories

Study reveals most biologically rich island in Southern Ocean

May 25, 2011

The first comprehensive study of sea creatures around the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia reveals a region that is richer in biodiversity than even many tropical sites, such as the Galapagos Islands. The study provides ...

Tonnes of garbage cleaned up from Galapagos coast

March 18, 2018

Officials at Ecuador's Galapagos National Park say they have collected 22 tonnes of garbage since January off the coasts of the pristine archipelago, some of it from as far away as Asia.

Recommended for you

Bioceramics power the mantis shrimp's famous punch

October 18, 2018

Researchers in Singapore can now explain what gives the mantis shrimp, a marine crustacean that hunts by battering its prey with its club-like appendages, the most powerful punch in the animal kingdom. In a paper publishing ...

Expanding the optogenetics toolkit

October 18, 2018

Controlling individual brain cells using light-sensitive proteins has proven to be a powerful tool for probing the brain's complexities. As this branch of neuroscience has expanded, so has the demand for a diverse palette ...

Staying a step ahead of the game

October 18, 2018

Trypanosoma brucei, which causes sleeping sickness, evades the immune system by repeatedly altering the structure of its surface coat. Sequencing of its genome and studies of its 3-D genome architecture have now revealed ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.