Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Ridding Pinzón of 180 million rats will be good for the Galápagos Shearwater (and its Giant Tortoises)

Pinzón (1812 ha) is the twelfth largest island in the Galápagos.  It is in the news because this week aerial poison bait drops have begun to rid it and the nearby 10-ha islet of Plaza Sur of their introduced Black or Ship Rats Rattus rattus, present since at least 1897 (click here).

The Galápagos National Park Service is working with the NGO Island Conservation and the Charles Darwin Foundation to remove an estimated 180 million rats by dropping 22 tonnes of bait from a helicopter-borne bucket - which should help the burrowing Galápagos Shearwaters Puffinus subalaris that are reported to breed on the island, as well as the endemic island race of the Galápagos Tortoise Geochelone elephantopus ephippium.  The Galápagos Shearwater is endemic to the Galápagos.  Until recently it was considered a subspecies of the widespread (and Least Concern) Audubon's Shearwater P. lherminieri, and so has as yet not been assigned its own category of threat by BirdLife International (click here).

The current anti-rat campaign in the Galápagos began with Phase I in January 2011 to remove Norway or Brown Rats R. norvegicus from 490-ha Rábida Island (also stated to support shearwaters) and about a dozen islets, including Bartolomé, Sombrero Chino, North Plaza, the two Beagle Islets and the three Bainbridge Islets.  This followed on from an international workshop on rodent eradication held in the Galápagos in 2007.  An unsuccessful rat eradication attempt took place on Pinzón in 1988 (click here).  The eradication programme, of which week's activity constitutes Phase II, is set to continue until 2020 to remove introduced rodents from other islands and islets in the Galápagos (click here).

Phase II of the project is being financed to the level of US$1.8 million by the Galápagos National Park Service and by conservation groups, including Island Conservation.

Previous efforts to eradicate invasive species in the Galápagos have removed feral goats, cats, donkeys and pigs from various islands.

With no land visits allowed by tourists, Pinzón is one of the most protected islands in the Galápagos (click here).

Click here for news of the eradication attempt on Pinzón in Spanish.  See also

http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/world/2012/nov/15/ecuador-poison-galapagos-islands-rats.

Reference:

Austin, J.J., Bretagnolle, V. & Pasquet, E. 2004.  A global molecular phylogeny of the small Puffinus shearwaters and implications for systematics of the Little-Audubon's Shearwater complex.  Auk 121: 847-864.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 18 November 2012

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