Commend the Effort to Rid the Galapagos Islands of Invasive Rat Species

galapagos

Target: Danny Rueda, Galapagos National Park Service director of Conservation

Goal: Support plans to eradicate invasive rat species from island ecosystem

Since the 17th century, rats have been unwelcome guests in the Galapagos Islands. Brought over in the holds of whaling and pirate ships, black and Norwegian rats have been overrunning the archipelago known for its biodiversity, rare species, and scientific value. Millions of the pests call the Galapagos Islands their home; posing a serious threat to ecology of island chain. However, the Ecuadorian government is taking a stand against the rodents, mounting a massive yet environmentally conscious rat extermination campaign.

The rats are known for devouring the eggs and newborns of indigenous species, native birds, and local plant life. The first stage of eradication will take place soon, with almost 22 tons of poison being distributed on one of the smaller islands.

Despite the staggering amount of poison being used protection of the local ecosystem is a priority of the project. The poison being used was painstakingly developed and tested. Though quite alluring to rats, it is of no interest to other species; uneaten poison pellets disintegrate into a harmless powder after a week. The poison will also expedite the process of decomposition in the rats. To protect species such as hawks and iguanas, which feed on the rats, mating pairs were removed from the island and placed in captivity until such a time as they can be reintroduced.

Rats are considered one of the Galapagos’ greatest threats; accordingly the government of Ecuador has taken it upon itself to eradicate any non-native rodent. It is estimated there is one rat per square foot. They will move from the smallest islands to the largest, with the inhabited islands coming last.

Rats have threatened the delicate island ecosystem for ages and now something is being done about it responsibly (various conservation groups have signed off on the project). Take a moment to thank the Galapagos National Park Service for protecting the Galapagos ecosystem.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Rueda,

For centuries now, rats have been overrunning the Galapagos Islands. These foreign invaders have consistently posed one of the most serious threats to the Galapagos, wiping out local flora and fauna populations, being a general nuisance, and seriously damaging the delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos. It is fitting, therefore, that you and other members of the international community have begun the daunting task of eradicating the invasive species.

What is truly remarkable about this is that you are keeping the environmental sanctity of the Galapagos Islands as the first and foremost priority. An extermination program can go disastrously wrong, but you have taken every precaution. The poison has been well tested and developed; it has been engineered to have the lowest impact possible, and you have ensured that the native species will be protected. You have formulated an excellent plan that will hopefully eliminate the rat problem and protect the islands.

Frankly, there is no other way for you and your government to deal with this problem. With an estimated 180 million rats living in the Galapagos you do not have a particularly humane option—you are doing what must be done. It is dirty but commendable work, and it is in the best interest of the islands and the environment. I wish you the best in this endeavor.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: David Berkowitz via flickr

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