In DepthBiodiversity

Rat eradication launched on populated island

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Science  07 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6444, pp. 915-916
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6444.915

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Lord Howe Island, 780 kilometers northeast of Sydney, Australia, hosts throngs of endemic birds and insects. But invasive species have laid siege to this biodiversity, including black rats accidentally introduced a century ago. Now, a unique effort to eradicate the invaders is unfolding. Some 28,000 bait stations were filled starting 22 May, and helicopters will soon scatter baits over more forested and mountainous parts of the island. Some residents fear the poison could harm children, pets, cattle, and other wildlife—or damage the lucrative tourist trade. But if the effort is successful, endemic birds will be reintroduced or will return on their own, and biologists plan to reestablish the Lord Howe Island stick insect, an insect giant that survives only on a nearby islet.