An earlier article by Top Dog Pest Control detailed the government plan to make New Zealand completely rat free. A project backed by Prince Charles has proven that this is possible, with St Agnes and Gugh in the Isles of Scilly now being declared rat-free zones.
Granted, the project was of a much smaller scale, targeting islands with a combined population of just 84 inhabitants. However, it can still serve as a model of measures that can work to protect native birds and animals from rats.
No Rats Means the Return of Native Birds
The primary reasons for ridding the small islands of rats was to reinstate the population of native birds that were either dwindling or non-existent due to rats eating their eggs and chicks.
The storm petel is the smallest sea birds in the world, equivalent to the size of a sparrow. Known for nesting is only two sites in the UK, the storm petel hadn’t been seen in St Agnes and Gugh for many years. As a ground nesting bird, rats were able to access them very easily and destroy their population on the island. However, since then eradication of the rats, they are now back and living in cracks in the rocks beneath the local pub.
Manz Sherwater have been on St Agnes and Gugh since 2000BC and in the 13th century their population was so strong that they were used as currency.
However, this did not stop them becoming forced to leave the isles, due to the presence of rats, which arrived on ship wreaks that surround the Isle of Scilly. In 2014 it was documented that a chick hasn’t survived in this location in over 100 years and that there were only 24 nesting pairs of Manx Sherwater.
The Rat Eradication Project
In 2013 a £750,000 project was launched to eradicate rats completely and the 84 residents came together to help the project succeed:
- Residents were supplied with heavy duty plastic bin lids to put on their outside bins to ensure rats could not access waste food.
- Weekly trips to the tip became part of the weekend routine for inhabitants to minimise waste being around properties.
- Farmers were asked to clean our sheds, barns and any other outside buildings.
- School children were educated about the importance of the two species of birds and the detrimental effects of rats.
- November 2013 saw 1000 tamper bait boxes being laid all over the small island and over 3000 rats were caught.
Little by little, the rats were eradicated and the islands saw the return of native migratory birds. The number of Max Sherwaters has nearly triple in three years and there are now 73 nesting pairs on the islands as well as 30 chicks.
Author: This article was written by Dean Mannion, Senior Pest Control Technician for Top Dog Pest Control who provide London rat control services.