Today’s Solutions: January 21, 2022

The biodiversity of Seymour Norte and Mosquera, two Galápagos Islands, has been threatened for generations by a commonly abhorred pest: rats.

Two rat species (the black rat and the Norweigan rat) have disrupted the ecosystems on the islands of Seymour Norte and Mosquera since they arrived on ships in the 1800s and early 1900s. For instance, Seymour Norte is home to one of the largest populations of frigatebirds, but their eggs and offspring are constantly at risk of being snapped up by both species of rats.

However, thanks to a two-year rodent eradication program launched in January 2019 by Galápagos National Park officials in collaboration with the nonprofit Island Conservation, as well as the recent work of drone pilots from Envicto Technologies, these two islands can finally say that they’ve finally rid themselves of rats. This means that the native biodiversity on the island ecosystems can return to its normal state.

How they did it

Bell Laboratories manufactured “conservation bait” that was then distributed by drones fitted with a dispersal bucket and guided by GPS. Once the bait was implemented, more bait was placed in stations along the coastline to ensure that no rodents re-invaded the island. These stations progressively captured the invasive rats over the span of two years.

Danny Rueda, the director of the Galápagos National Park, said, “After two years of waiting, this project has given the expected results… Galápagos, once again, is a benchmark in terms of the protection of this globally important ecosystem.”

For long-term prevention, a biosecurity barrier comprised of 289 bait stations will be maintained to ensure that rodents from Santa Cruz or Baltra are staved off.

Advanced drone technology

This is the first time that drone technology is used to eradicate invasive rodents from an island, which, according to Island Conservation, proves its worth as a concept.

In 2021, more rodent-eradication projects using drones will be implemented on three island groups across the Pacific. The introduction of non-native rodent species is the leading threat to the native biodiversity on islands, already contributing to 86 percent of recorded extinctions.

If drones can help free these islands from invasive rodents, then the native plants and animals, such as Galápagos Land Iguanas and Swallowed-tailed Gulls (the only nocturnal gull on the planet) can fulfill their ecological roles undisturbed and thrive once again.

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