22,000 traps and 40 tons of poison are not enough to eradicate the rat infestation on the Lord Howe Islands

Only about 100 rats have been discovered since a $ 17 million extermination drive on the world heritage island, but experts insist all is not lost.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Rat infestation


(Photo: Getty Images)

Nearly 100 rats have been sighted on Lord Howe Island since April, despite 22,000 lockable traps being set and more than 40 tons of poison sprayed by helicopters – but scientists remain optimistic that the $ 17 million eradication campaign was a success.

The last rat discovered on the island was due to be washed away by a sniffer dog in 2019, but the latest attempt to clean up marks a crucial test for the program on the isolated, world heritage island 700 kilometers northeast of Sydney.

Lord Howe Island had an estimated rodent population of 300,000 rats and mice before eradication operations began in 2019 – nearly 1,000 rodents for each island’s 350 residents.

Related article: The mouse plague in Australia continues to wreak havoc due to the exploding rodent population

Find invasive rats

A rat was discovered on the street near Neds Beach Cemetery by a local woman in mid-April, raising suspicions that the program had failed. Two rats were killed within days and an autopsy revealed a juvenile male and a pregnant female.

Since the beginning of the extermination attempts, the duo were the first recorded rat to be discovered.

After the find, officials installed 250 motion-activated cameras in the bushland and dispatched teams of specialists and specially trained dogs from mainland New South Wales and New Zealand to track down surviving rodents. As a result, 96 black rats have been confiscated and killed since the beginning of the year.

The last rat sighting was 85 days ago and DNA tests were performed to determine if the rats were survivors or were from the mainland. However, the results will not be available until December.

An additional $ 3 million in grants has been made available for the latest phase, of which $ 1.8 million has already been spent. The surveillance program will be scaled back if no rats are found by the end of December.

According to Atticus Fleming, chairman of the Lord Howe Island Board and head of NSW National Parks, the focus would then shift to “biosecurity measures” to prevent additional rats from entering the boat from the mainland. However, as a precautionary measure, some surveillance would continue.

“Doing nothing is not an option,” added Fleming. “Success is demonstrated by the fact that one of the world’s most endangered species has quadrupled.

“We’re talking about a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” We are talking about a region of the world widely considered to be of exceptional value – one of the planet’s crown jewels. So we have to take this very seriously. “

Jumping ships


(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Rats are said to have jumped off board and arrived on the island. Mice first arrived on the island in 1850, followed by rats in 1918, who had fled a ship that had sunk off the coast.

Rodents posed a threat to endangered species like the flightless Lord Howe Woodhen, and other species, including five land birds, 13 invertebrates, and two plant species, became extinct due to their invasion.

Grouse populations rose rapidly after returning to the area around the island, from 250 birds in February to over 600 in March.

Also Read: Woman Wakes Up To A Mouse Gnawing Her Eyeballs As The Australian Mouse Plague Worsens

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