Eradication in Galapagos Islands
* Aerial baiting operations on Pinzon
Island, Galapagos. Photo: AP
QUITO, Ecuador (AP Frank Bajak) — The
unique bird and reptile species that make the Galapagos Islands a
treasure for scientists and tourists must be preserved, Ecuadorean
authorities say — and that means the rats must die, hundreds of millions
A helicopter is to begin dropping nearly
22 tons of specially designed poison bait on Pinzon island (1812ha),
launching the second phase of a campaign to clear out non-native rodents
from the archipelago.
The invasive Norway and black rats, introduced in the 17th century, feed
on the eggs and hatchlings of the islands’ native species, which include
giant tortoises, lava lizards, snakes, hawks and iguanas. Rats also have
depleted plants on which native species feed and have critically
endangered bird species on the 19-island cluster 1,000 kilometers from
Phase I of the anti-rat campaign began in
January 2011 on uninhabited Rabida island and about a dozen islets. The
islands where humans reside, Isabela and Santa Cruz, will come last.
The largest island in the Galapagos group
is Isabela – at 4640 sq. km area it is seventeen times bigger than Great
Barrier. The Galapagos group carries a human population of 25,000, with
12,000 in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.
The rat infestation has now reached about
10 per square meter on Pinzon, an estimated 180 million rodents.
The current $1.8 million phase of the
project is financed by the national park and nonprofit conservation
groups including Island Conservation.
The Galapagos were declared protected as a
UNESCO Natural Heritage site in 1978. In 2007, UNESCO declared them at
risk due to harm from invasive species, tourism and immigration.