Project to eradicate non-native brown rats that feed on eggs and chicks on St Agnes and Gugg is declared a success
Saturday 13 February 2016 00.01 GMTLast modified on Monday 15 February 201611.04 GMT
A project to protect breeding seabirds from invasive rats on the Scilly Isles has been a success with the two islands declared “rat-free”.
Bird populations on St Agnes and Gugh, linked by a sand bar, are starting to recover after a quarter century of year-on-year declines following work to eradicate the non-native brown rats which were feeding on eggs and chicks, conservationists said.
They are thought to have first colonised the islands in the 18th century following several shipwrecks and grew to a population that was harmful to birds such as European storm-petrels (Hydrobates pelagicus) and Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus), which have been in decline since the 1980s.
Local volunteers and conservationists began work in 2013 on a project to monitor rat activity on the island, followed by an intensive programme of baiting and poisoning for a month in the winter. No rats have been spotted since November 2013, and after a thorough month-long inspection at the beginning of this year the islands have been declared officially “rat-free”.
Since the removal of the rats, both Manx shearwaters and European storm-petrels are successfully breeding on the islands for the first time in living memory, conservationists said, with more than 40 chicks recorded on the islands in the last two years.