The world’s largest rat eradication effort has come to a close. The project, led by the South Georgia Heritage Trust, aims to completely eliminate the invasive pests from the South Georgia Island, a 3900 square kilometer landmass in the southern Atlantic Ocean. The bulk of the eradication process consisted of massive poison drops by helicopter across the island, in a three-stage, 5 year long conservation effort. This project follows the island-wide reindeer eradication that began just several years ago, in an effort to eliminate these highly destructive mammals from the area.
As on many islands around the world, these introduced rats have had a significant impact on the native organisms of South Georgia, including the endemic South Georgia Pipit. The hope is that once both rats and reindeer are removed from the island, the South Georgia flora and fauna can return to a more natural state. Work here in the Lynch Lab will attempt to quantify the recovery of this ecosystem over time. While not cheap, at an estimated cost of £7.6 million the project was much less expensive than previous rat eradication efforts on other islands. Considering the difficulty of removing these pests and the impact that these organisms have on their adopted environment, this is ultimately a small price to pay for the restoration and conservation of this remote island ecosystem.
Photo credit: South Georgia Heritage Trust