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The Wake Island Rodent Eradicaation – Part Success, Part Failure, but Wholly Instructive

  • Author(s): Griffiths, Richard
  • Wegmann, Alex
  • Hanson, Chad
  • Keitt, Brad
  • Howald, Gregg
  • Brown, Derek
  • Tershy, Bernie
  • Pitt, William
  • Moran, Matthew
  • Rex, Kristen
  • White, Susan
  • Flint, Beth
  • Torr, Nick
  • et al.
Abstract

Rodent eradications undertaken on tropical islands have had a lower success rate than those attempted in temperate regions. A recent project undertaken to eradicate Rattus tanezumi and R. exulans from the 3 islands comprising Wake Atoll is illustrative. R. tanezumi was successfully removed from all 3 islands. R. exulans was permanently eradicated on Peale Island (95 ha) and temporarily on Wilkes Island (76 ha). R. exulans eradication on Wake Island (525 ha) was unsuccessful and the species has since repopulated Wake Island and recolonized Wilkes Island. We completed a detailed review of the project in an attempt to isolate potential causes of eradication failure. Based on the evidence available, we were not able to positively identify a single factor to explain why R. exulans survived on Wake Island. However, monitoring after the operation points to a sequence of events that comprised delayed mortality amongst a subset of breeding females and the emergence of young rats after bait was no longer readily available. Such an event was likely influenced by an abundance of natural food resources throughout the treatment area, a high density of rats, interspecific competition for toxic bait, and rapid disappearance of bait because of consumption by non-target consumers (land crabs). These factors are common to many tropical islands. We provide recommendations for addressing these factors in a future attempt to remove rats from Wake Atoll.

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