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The Ecology of Rodents in the Tonga Islands
Available Online

Twibell, John

The influence on crop damage of Rattus norvegicus, Rattus rattus, and the native Polynesian rat, Rattus exulans, was studied during the establishment of a rat control program for the Tongan Department of Agriculture in 1969. This was the first long-term study of Tongan rodents. Previous scientific literature on Tongan mammals is very sparse. The Kingdom of Tonga, or Friendly Islands, consists of approximately 150 small islands with a combined area of about 256 square miles at lat 21 0 S. The majority of these islands are composed of raised coral limestone ; however, there is a row of six volcanic islands on Tonga's western border. Tongatapu, the location of the government center, is the largest and most important island. The Ha'apai island group lies 80 miles north of Tongatapu, and 150 miles north is the Vava'u group. Fiji is 420 nautical miles east and Samoa is 480 miles north. The climate is tropical and is influenced seasonally by trade winds. Since Captain Cook's first visit in 1773, Western civilization has brought trade, missionaries, and perhaps rats to Tonga. With this shipping came numerous introduced plants and animals. The arrival dates for the common rat, Rattus norvegicus, and the "European" roof rat, Rattus rattus, are not known, but are believed to be more recent, probably since the increase of regular shipping trade and the construction of wharves. Presently rodents account for approximately 20 percent of the agricultural losses and $50,000 worth of economic loss each year (Twibell, unpublished). This is a conservative estimate based on damage counts and observation. In some areas rats destroy or damage up to 50 percent of the coconuts, which represent the main economic crop in Tonga. THE INFLUENCE on crop damage of Rattus norvegicus, Rattus rattus, and the native Polynesian rat, Rattus exulans, was studied during the establishment of a rat control program for the Tongan Department of Agriculture in 1969. This was the first long-term study of Tongan rodents. Previous scientific literature on Tongan mammals is very sparse. The Kingdom of Tonga, or Friendly Islands, consists of approximately 150 small islands with a combined area of about 256 square miles at lat 21 0 S. The majority of these islands are composed of raised coral limestone ; however, there is a row of six volcanic islands on Tonga's western border. Tongatapu, the location of the government center, is the largest and most important island. The Ha'apai island group lies 80 miles north of Tongatapu, and 150 miles north is the Vava'u group. Fiji is 420 nautical miles east and Samoa is 480 miles north. The climate is tropical and is influenced seasonally by trade winds. Since Captain Cook's first visit in 1773, Western civilization has brought trade, missionaries, and perhaps rats to Tonga. With this shipping came numerous introduced plants and animals. The arrival dates for the common rat, Rattus norvegicus, and the "European" roof rat, Rattus rattus, are not known, but are believed to be more recent, probably since the increase of regular shipping trade and the construction of wharves. Presently rodents account for approximately 20 percent of the agricultural losses and $50,000 worth of economic loss each year (Twibell, unpublished). This is a conservative estimate based on damage counts and observation. In some areas rats destroy or damage up to 50 percent of the coconuts, which represent the main economic crop in Tonga.
Predation pressures on sooty terns by cats, rats and common mynas on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic
Available Online

Dickey, R.C.

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Hughes, B.J.

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Reynolds, S.J.

2019
Despite the presence of invasive black rats (Rattus rattus), common mynas (Acridotheres tristis), and feral domestic cats (Felis catus), sooty terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) breed in large numbers on Ascension Island in the tropical South Atlantic Ocean. These introduced predators impact the terns by destroying eggs or interrupting incubation (mynas), eating eggs (mynas and rats), eating chicks (rats and cats), or eating adults (cats). Between 1990 and 2015, 26 censuses of sooty terns and five of mynas were completed and myna predation was monitored on 10 occasions. Rat relative abundance indices were determined through trapping around the tern colonies and rat predation was monitored by counting chick carcasses. Cat predation was quantified by recording freshly killed terns. Prior to their eradication in 2003, cats had the greatest impact on sooty terns and were depredating 5,800 adults and 3,600 near-fledging chicks (equivalent to the loss of 71,000 eggs) each breeding season. We estimated that 26,000 sooty tern eggs (13% of all those laid) were depredated by approximately 1,000 mynas. Rats were not known to depredate sooty terns prior to cat eradication but in 2005, 131 of 596 ringed (monitored) chicks (22%) were depredated by rats. In 2009 chick carcass density was 0.16 per m2. Predation by rats hugely increased in the absence of cats and was the equivalent of 69,000 eggs. Care is needed when applying our findings to seabirds globally. The scarcity of alternative food sources and seasonally high density of easily available prey in the sooty tern colony may have magnified predation by cats, rats and mynas.
Rat and lagomorph eradication on two large islands of central Mediterranean: differences in island morphology and consequences on methods, problems and targets
Available Online

Baccetti, N.

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Capizzi, D.

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Cencetti, T.

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De Pietro, F.

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Giannini, F.

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Gotti, C.

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Puppo, F.

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Quilghini, E.

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Raganella Pelliccion, E.

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Sammuri, G.

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Sposimo, P.

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Trocchi, V.

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Vagniluca, S.

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Zanichelli, F.

2019
Montecristo and Pianosa islands, although approximately equal in surface area (c. 1,000 ha), di?er greatly in substrate, human presence, vegetation and altitude (650 m vs. 30 m asl, respectively). The former island hosts one of the largest yelkouan shearwater (Pu?nus yelkouan) populations in Italy, the latter a depleted remnant of once numerous Scopoli’s shearwaters (Calonectris diomedea). Two consecutive EU-funded LIFE projects have been designed to protect these seabird populations. On Montecristo, rough and inaccessible, aerial delivery of toxic baits in January-February 2012 eradicated black rats (Rattus rattus) and feral rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) (originally a non-target species), with no permanent consequences on a local, ancient population of wild goats (Capra hircus). Eradication on Pianosa, currently underway (started January 2017), is being performed by ground baiting, delivered by 4,750 dispensers placed on a 50 m × 50 m grid throughout the island. The latter operation is included in a multi-species eradication aimed at several other target species, among which was the brown hare (Lepus europaeus), apparently introduced around 1840. Genetic analyses on the ?rst trapped hares showed that this was the last uncontaminated and viable population of L. europaeus subsp. meridiei in existence. Whether of natural origin or introduced, the commencement of eradication of this population has instead created the awareness of a taxon otherwise unavailable for conservation elsewhere. While both projects address the same conservation issues (protection of shearwater colonies and restoration of natural communities), they di?er greatly regarding economic cost, public perception, e? ort needed to maintain results in the long term and e?ects on non-target species. In the present paper, speci?c attention has been paid to the comparison between bait delivering techniques, results obtained, the array of problems originating from the complex regulatory framework and reactions by the general public.
The history of the aerial application of rodenticide in New Zealand
Available Online

Broome, K.

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Garden, P.

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McClelland, P.

2019
Following the incursion of rats (Rattus rattus) on Taukihepa (Big South Cape Island; 93.9 km²) off southern New Zealand in 1963, and the subsequent extirpation of several endemic species, the New Zealand Wildlife Service realised that, contrary to general belief at the time, introduced predators do not reach a natural balance with native species and that a safe breeding habitat for an increasing number of ‘at risk’ species was urgently needed. Off shore islands offered the best option for providing predator free habitat but there was a limited number of predator-free islands available and most were very small. Eradicating rodents on larger islands to provide a wider range and greater area of habitats was required and hand treating these larger areas using trapping and hand application of toxicants, the only methods available at the time, proved problematic and often impossible. Helicopters had been used to distribute bait for the control of rabbits and brushtail possums in the past but eradication of any particular predator species was considered ‘not feasible’. The development of a GPS-based aircraft guidance system, a suitable bait product, specialised bait delivery systems and second-generation anti-coagulant toxicants changed that. Now islands as large as South Georgia (3,900 km²) have been treated using this method
Successes and failures of rat eradications on tropical islands: a comparative review of eight recent projects
Available Online

Brown, D.

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Cranwell, S.

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Cuthbert, R.J.

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Griffiths, R.

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Howald, G.

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Keitt, B.

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Pitt, W.C.

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Tershy, B.

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Wegmann, A.

2019
Rat eradication is a highly effective tool for conserving biodiversity, but one that requires considerable planning eff ort, a high level of precision during implementation and carries no guarantee of success. Overall, rates of success are generally high but lower for tropical islands where most biodiversity is at risk. We completed a qualitative comparative review on four successful and four unsuccessful tropical rat eradication projects to better understand the factors influencing the success of tropical rat eradications and shed light on how the risk of future failures can be minimised. Observations of juvenile rats surviving more than four weeks after bait application on two islands validate the previously considered theoretical risk that unweaned rats can remain isolated from exposure to rodent bait for a period. Juvenile rats emerging after bait was no longer readily available may have been the cause of some or all the project failures. The elevated availability of natural resources (primarily fruiting or seeding plants) generated by rainfall prior to project implementation(documented for three of the unsuccessful projects) may also have contributed to project failure by reducing the likelihood that all rats would consume sufficient rodent bait or compounding other factors such as rodent breeding. Our analysis highlights that rat eradication can be achieved on tropical islands but suggests that events that cannot be predicted with certainty in some tropical regions can act individually or in concert to reduce the likelihood of project success. We recommend research to determine the relative importance of these factors in the fate of future tropical projects and suggest that existing practices be re-evaluated for tropical island rodent eradications.
Scaling down (cliffs) to meet the challenge: the Shiants’ black rat eradication
Available Online

Bambini, L.

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Bell, E.

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Campbell, G.

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Churchyard, T.

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Douse, A.

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Floyd, K.

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Ibbotson, J.

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Main, C.E.

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Nicolson, T.

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Reid, R.

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Taylor, P.R.

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Tayton, J.

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Varnham, K.

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Whittington, W.

2019
A successful ground-based eradication of black rats (Rattus rattus) was undertaken on the remote, uninhabited Shiant Isles of north-west Scotland over winter (14 October–28 March) 2015–16. The rat eradication was carried out as part of the Shiants Seabird Recovery Project, which aims to secure long-term breeding habitat for protected seabirds and to attract European storm petrels and Manx shearwaters to nest on the Shiants. Throughout the eradication operation, teams were stationed on two of the three main Shiant islands (Eilean an Tighe, Eilean Mhuire), with access to the third (Garbh Eilean) via a boulder causeway from Eilean an Tighe. Bait (Contrac® blocks containing the anticoagulant bromadiolone 0.005% w/w), was deployed in a grid of 1,183 bait stations covering all areas of the islands and sea stacks. Bait stations were set 50 m apart, with intervals reduced to 25 m in coastal areas of predicted high rat density. Difficult areas were accessed by boat and cliff s of ~120 m in height were accessed by abseiling down ropes made safe using either bolted anchors or ground stakes. The team of staff and volunteers worked through difficult conditions, deploying bait and monitoring intensively for any surviving rats using a combination of tools. The islands were declared rat free in March 2018. This ambitious and challenging project has greatly enhanced UK capacity in rodent eradications for the purposes of conservation.
Long term rodent control in Rdum tal-Madonna yelkouan shearwater colony
Available Online

Cabello, J.S. Santiago

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Lago, P.

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Varnham, K.

2019
Rodent predation on eggs and chicks is one of the main threats to procellariiform species in the Mediterranean, where the black rat (Rattus rattus) and brown rat (R. norvegicus) have been present on many islands for centuries. The yelkouan shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan) is an endemic Mediterranean seabird species classified as vulnerable. Malta holds up to 10% of the global population; the largest colony, Rdum tal-Madonna (RM), protected as a Natura 2000 site, hosts around 500 breeding pairs. This colony has been monitored since its discovery in 1969. A very low reproductive success due to rat predation was noticed in the late 1990s to early 2000s. In 2007 a seasonal rodent control programme was established during the breeding season of yelkouan shearwater to reduce rat predation on eggs and chicks. Rodent control took place between 2007 and 2010 and was reviewed and continued from 2012 to 2017. Breeding success since 2007 has been higher than 80%. In two other colonies with rat presence and where rodent control did not take place, the breeding success in 2016 and 2017 was substantially lower than in the colony with the rodent control programme. The European storm-petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis) only breeds in rat-free areas like remote sea caves or islets around the Maltese islands. In 2014, the first breeding attempt by European storm-petrel was recorded on the Maltese mainland at RM with a chick fledging successfully for the first time in 2016. The ongoing LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija project is assessing rat predation in all Maltese yelkouan shearwater colonies in order to establish predator control in the most important yelkouan shearwater breeding sites in 2018.