An article published May 15 in the scientific weekly journal Nature details how Galápagos authorities are hopeful about their war on rodents that threaten native birds and reptiles.
“Five years ago,” the article states, “most of the major islands and smaller rocky outcrops in the Galapagos were home to a plague of invasive mice and rats. The rodents feed on the eggs and young of seabirds, land birds and reptiles, and have brought several species — including the rare Pinzón giant tortoise (Chelonoidisduncanensis) — to the brink of extinction.”
To turn that around, the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation developed a military-style plan of action to get rid of rats and mice on three islands with the focus on Pinzón.
It involved using specially designed poison that would attract rodents but wouldn’t be eaten by native creatures that the authorities are trying to save. The poison was dyed a bright blue, a color avoided by the local birds.
It’s too early to tell if all the rodents on Pinzón are gone. The authorities say it will take at least two years of intensive monitoring before they can declare success.
Next year, the eradication efforts plan to zero in on Floreana Island where the presence of human inhabitants complicates matters. Felipe Cruz, who headed an earlier program to kill rodents on Floreana, said he hopes that the Galápagos Petrel, threatened by the rats and mice, will make a comeback.
“When I travel between the islands and I get to see groups of petrels flying about, I have to be quite honest,” Cruz told Nature, “My heart beats faster.”