Habitat Restoration (HR) Project

South Georgia has now been declared rodent free
– for the first time in centuries

On 8 May 2018 we announced the outcome of the 2017-18 survey of all of the baited areas – South Georgia has now been declared rodent free.

South Georgia declared rodent-free!

Read Reclaiming South Georgia for the story of  the first 3 phases of the Habitat Restoration Project.

Phase 4: The detailed survey of baited areas

In 2017-18 thanks to many organisation and donors who supported both SGHT and Friends of South Georgia Island (FOSGI), SGHT carried out a definitive check of the areas it baited in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Dickie Hall is the Project Director of Phase 4, listen to his interviews following the successful completion of the survey in the post below.

Habitat Restoration Project Director Dickie Hall interviews

One of the members of Team Rat has published a super series of photographs of his time with the Habitat Restoration team which culminated in the recent announcement that South Georgia is rat free. Find the photos at the link below…

Rat hunt!

Tony Martin, Project director of phases 1-3 of said of the 2017-18 survey :

The rule of thumb internationally is to investigate two years after you finish baiting and if you don’t find any rodent sign you say that’s it – job done. We left it a little bit more than that and in the case of phase 2 it was four and a half years since baiting camera traps and various other devices were used, along with specially trained rodent detection dogs. If no rodent sign is found then South Georgia can be declared rodent free.”

Phases 1-3: Eradicating invasive rodents from South Georgia – baiting the island

Video of helicopter baiting operations:

Read Reclaiming South Georgia for the story of the first 3 phases of the Habitat Restoration Project or watch the video below of Tony’s lecture.

Island Invasives 2017 conference, Dundee.

Tony Martin speaking at the Island Invasive conference in held at Dundee Universtiy 2017

The decision was made to offer to host the 2017 Island Invasives Conference conference primarily because of the help and advice that SGHT received from the Island Invasives community whist undertaking the South Georgia rodent eradication (or Habitat Restoration Project) with the help of the US not for profit organisation Friends of South Georgia Island.

 

Reclaiming South Georgia

Stills from the the Earth Optimism day conference in Cambridge University 2017: From left to right: Prof. Tony Martin and two of Sir David Attenborough commenting on Tony’s work on the Habitat restoration project which “warmed my heart”.

Today is Earth Optimism day. Quite right too. We’ve heard marvellous stories of heart warming successes, splendid. And if I may say so Tony Martin, those pictures of South Georgia and what you did with those rats; that warmed my heart. Sir David Attenborough speaking at the Cambridge Conservation Initiative #EarthOptimism, 22 April 2017

 

Prof. Tony Martin who was the Habitat Restoration Project Manager during the 3 baiting phases, gave a talk on 22 April 2017 at the Cambridge Conservation Initiative #EarthOptimism Cambridge which was part of a global celebration of successful nature conservation.

See his talk below starting at time 18mins 16s (David Attenborough’s comments quoted above on the project can be seen at 46min 57s)

 

Before the Habitat Restoration Project

Prior to the Habitat Restoration Project, rats occurred throughout almost all of the hospitable, warmer areas of South Georgia – the same habitat required by native wildlife.

Mice were only known to occur in one area in the northwest of South Georgia; however, reports had raised concerns that they might have been introduced into new areas. Based on experience gained around the world, it was clear that the only feasible way to eradicate all rodents on an island the size of South Georgia was to spread toxic bait by helicopter. This technique had proven to be effective in eradicating rodents from smaller islands and is now widely used. This was an immense undertaking for SGHT. At 100,000 hectares in size, the area of South Georgia being cleared was more than eight times larger than Campbell Island (New Zealand), which at 11,300 hectares had been the largest island ever cleared of rodents before the South Georgia project began. However, as South Georgia’s rodent population was divided into a number of independent units by the island’s sea-level glaciers, eradication of all rodents was feasible. The eradication operation on South Georgia required three helicopters, approximately 300 tonnes of rodent bait and three seasons to complete the baiting work.

Ultimately, the whole of South Georgia would be overrun by rats and mice unless every single rodent was eradicated. SGHT’s objective was clear – to remove every rodent from every piece of land on South Georgia, and leave it rodent-free for generations to come.

REMOVING RODENTS FROM SOUTH GEORGIA

The Bolkow-105 helicopter

One of three Bolkow-105 helicopters purchased that SGHT used to spread the bait

Rat eating bait

A rat eating the specially developed bait which is unattractive to birds.

Howard Pearce, former Chairman of SGHT, said this on the 25th June 2015, following the end of the baiting work on 23 March 2015 :

“We have finished the baiting, we hope that we have succeeded and we hope there are now no live rats on South Georgia. The impact of that on South Georgia is going to be enormous –  we are already seeing birds returning to areas where they have not been seen in living memory. 

Over the decades and the centuries we will be witnessing a huge increase in the bird population of South Georgia. Scientists say we could be talking in terms of up to 100 million more birds on the island. That’s an amazing figure.This project demonstrates what can be done if you get the right team of people together and you have the right vision and the right determination.”

 

Read more about the project’s background and view the planning documents

Book Review: Reclaiming South Georgia

HR_BookReview

Tony Martin’s book “Reclaiming South Georgia: the defeat of furry invaders on a sub-Antartctic island” is reviewed by Martin Heubeck in British Birds magazine September 2016.

Tony’s book tells the story of the Habitat Restoration project which aimed to eradicate rodents from the island.

Click here for the pdf version of the review.

The book can be purchased from our online shop, click on this link.