South Georgia had a big problem. Rats and mice were decimating its native birds’ eggs and chicks.
The rodents, which arrived on ships during the 19th and early 20th centuries, had spread over much of the island, home to 90 percent of the world’s Antarctic fur seals, half the world’s elephant seals and four species of penguins, including 400,000 king penguins.
“Rats had access to every nest,” Sarah Lurcock, site director of the South Georgia Heritage Trust, told travelers on an Abercrombie & Kent charter cruise to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. As a result, the main island, one of the world’s last great wilderness areas, had been all but abandoned by its native inhabitants — storm petrels, blue petrels and prions. And the South Georgia Pip was threatened.
Enter Team Rat, the world’s largest rodent eradication project. Lurcock told her listeners that a $145 donation would help eradicate rats on 1 hectare (2.7 acres) of the island. “If we miss a single pregnant female rate, we would fail,” she said.
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