Predation by the Black Rat Rattus rattus threatens the World’s largest population of Yelkouan Shearwaters Puffinus yelkouan on Italy’s Tavolara Island off the north-east coast of Sardinia. Tavolara falls within the Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Preserve but its shearwaters (and its Mediterranean Storm Petrels Hydrobates pelagicus melitensis) can only breed successfully in caves in rat-free cliffs. In addition Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea breeds in small numbers.
The island’s population of 9991 to 13 424 pairs of Yelkouan Shearwaters (a potential candidate for ACAP listing) is to be protected by EU LIFE Project Puffinus Tavolara NAT/IT/000416 that aims to eradicate both Black Rats and House Mice Mus musculus over the period 2103 to 2017. Rodenticide baits will be distributed from the air on Tavolara and on three small islets - except along the coast and in the few inhabited areas (click here). The project aims to increase the number of fledging shearwaters post rats to 5000 to 8000 a year.
Yelkouan Shearwater, photograph by Matthew Borg Cardona
The project will also attempt to eradicate two species of invasive plants, a 40% reduction of the island’s feral goats Capra aegagrus hircus and establish improved biosecurity measures.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 August 2014