Restoring South Georgia for its endemic and native species
The introduction and spread of Norway brown rats and mice to South Georgia in the late 18th century devastated the island’s bird populations for the next two centuries. Rodents were predating nests along the north coast and threatened to penetrate the few remaining rat-free areas of South Georgia. SGHT’s groundbreaking Habitat Restoration Project aims to save the island’s native habitat by eradicating rodents from the entire island.
The impact of rodents on South Georgia
The arrival of rats and other rodents on South Georgia as stowaways on sealing and whaling ships had a catastrophic effect on the island’s native bird populations. Rats eat the eggs and chicks of many ground-nesting bird species. As a result, the main island had been all but abandoned by the storm petrels, prions, diving petrels and blue petrels that once nested there.
Research has been done on the resourcefulness of rats who have re-invaded offshore islands in the Falklands
The endemic South Georgia Pipit once bred throughout the island. Now it is listed as near-threatened. Before SGHT’s Habitat Restoration project its breeding was confined to rodent-free offshore islands and islets, and the few remaining main-island areas that are protected from rodent invasion by sea-level glaciers.
Read more research on the impact of rats on offshore islands
As a result of global warming, South Georgia’s glaciers are retreating rapidly – two glacial barriers have been lost in the last few years alone. SGHT knew that without those barriers, the few remaining rodent-free areas would quickly be overrun and South Georgia’s remaining bird populations would suffer the consequences. More information about South Georgia’s endemic and native species that were threatened by invasive rodents
The baiting of the island was completed on the 23rd March 2015, and was followed in 2017-18 by an definitive survey to check if the baiting work had been successful and rodents had indeed been eradicated from the entire island. The result of this survey will be announced on 8 May 2018.
Undertaking the Project has only been possible because of the generosity of SGHT and FOSGI donors and the support of those people who have offered their experience and expertise to help with its planning and implementation. SGHT will continue to support the restoration of South Georgia’s wildlife by supporting biosecuring measures to prevent future infestation and monitoring of the recovery of the affected species once we know that rodents have been eradicated.
Future of the SGHT Habitat Restoration Project
Thanks to you we have managed to bait the entire island, on 8 May 2018 South Georgia was declared rodent-free.
SGHT has pledged to support the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands in the implementation of best practice biosecurity measures to minimise the threat of rodents ever returning to South Georgia.