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Ridding Palmerston Island of rats

Thursday 14 September 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Environment, National


Ridding Palmerston Island of rats
The Rat Eradication Programme has been underway in Palmerston since early August. NES/23091215

Palmerston island may soon be rat-free.

A collaborative team comprising members from the New Zealand Department of Conservation (NZDOC), Te Ipukarea Society (TIS), and National Environment Service (NES) are working alongside the Palmerston community to address an ongoing rat problem on the island.

The six week rat eradication programme began on Palmerston in early August.

Te Ipukarea Society said a successful rat eradication project on the island will enhance its biodiversity, improve nesting seabird populations, and native plants.

It will also improve food security, where residents will not have to compete with rats for their farmed and home grown produce, said TIS.

In July 2022, NZDOC dispatched a team to Rarotonga as part of a pre-feasibility study to assess the rat species present, their distribution across various motu and the general sentiments of the community towards rats.

The study aimed to gather crucial information in order to plan and execute a comprehensive eradication effort and prevent any potential reintroduction of rats.

Consequently, a Project Working Group (PWG) was formed, consisting of representatives from NZDOC, NES, TIS, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Palmerston Island Administration.

The PWG convened on a monthly basis to strategize and organize a Feasibility Study, which commenced in November 2022.

The study utilized non-toxic bait and its findings indicated the feasibility of conducting an eradication programme to eliminate rats.

The project is now in full implementation, having progressed rapidly in just over six months.

Emmanuel Oyston from NZDOC, the field team leader on Palmerston said that on August 28, around 4 million two-gram baits were spread across Home Island following a 20x20 metre grid pattern.

Additionally, 541 bait trays were placed in various locations within 116 buildings.

The team extended their efforts by distributing nearly 6 million two-gram baits across the grid on the Cooks motu, said Oyston.

The National Environment Service congratulated the eradication team and Palmerston community on their ongoing efforts to rid the island of rats.

The eradication team are: Teariki Tearetoa (NES), Julianna Marsters (MOA), Alanna Smith (TIS), Ieremia Samuela (TIS), Henry Koteka (TIS), Deon Frisbee (Palmerston community), John Tuakana Marsters (Palmerston community); Emmanuel Oyston (NZDOC), James Ware (NZDOC), Jenny Long (NZDOC), and Michael Mitchell (NZDOC).

Their collective efforts have brought them closer to achieving their goal of freeing the island from rats, marking a significant milestone in the conservation of Palmerston's ecosystem.

Vaka Marumaru Atua departed Avatiu Harbour on Tuesday morning  for Palmerton to pick up members of the eradication team and return them to Rarotonga. - Melina Etches/NES MEDIA