Unfortunately, soon after the island was discovered in 1775, it became overrun by rats and mice which arrived on the ships of sealers and whalers. Accomplished predators, the rats consumed the eggs and young of millions of ground nesting birds for nearly 200 years.
The Habitat Restoration Project
The Habitat Restoration project, led by the South Georgia Heritage Trust and Friends of South Georgia Island, sought to free the island’s wildlife from the grip of these invasive rodents, saving endemic species from the brink of extinction and increasing the numbers of native by millions. Three phases of aerial baiting in 2011, 2013 and 2015 treated all areas of the island that were known to be infested with rodents. This was followed by a comprehensive monitoring survey in the 2017/18 season. Everywhere on the island that the survey team went, they saw evidence of the recovery of bird populations in the absence of rats and mice!
In May 2018, following this concerted decade-long effort, the South Georgia Heritage Trust, Friends of South Georgia Island and the Government of South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands declared South Georgia rodent-free. This Herculean effort engaged partners and supporters from around the globe and remains the largest programme of its kind ever attempted. As time passes it is increasingly clear that the Habitat Restoration Project has instigated a biological renaissance on South Georgia.