The Ecuadorean government started dropping poisoned bait to kill the 180 million rats that live on one of the Galapagos Islands, it was reported Thursday.
“It’s one of the worst problems the Galapagos have. (Rats) reproduce every three months and eat everything,” Juan Carlos Gonzalez, who is involved with the country’s Nature Conservatory and is involved in the rodent eradication process on Plaza Sur, reported The Associated Press.
The Galapagos Islands are cherished for their wide variety of unique plants and wildlife ever since they were surveyed by British naturalist Charles Darwin.
But before Darwin’s voyage, brown and black rats were introduced in the 1600s by whalers and pirates. The rats eat eggs of the Galapagos’s unique island fauna, including tortoises, snakes, iguanas, hawks, and others, according to the Galapagos Conservancy website.
Gonzalez described the “very expensive” operation against the rats as a “war,” but stressed its necessity in preserving the threatened Galapagos animals.
The island of Pinzon, which is home to the iconic giant tortoises, has the most rats, with estimates of around 180 million. According to the Conservancy’s website, Pinzon is the largest island where the rats will be culled.
The Conservancy said that in phase one of the plan, it conducted tests to determine if the poisoned pellets would harm other nontarget species.
Thirty-four hawks on Pizon were trapped to prevent them from eating the rodents that eat the pellets, AP reported. Also, around 40 iguanas were also captured.
The Galapagos Conservancy cited “recent successes” in the killing of rodents on small- or medium-sized islands for eradicating the rat problem on Pinzon.
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