The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has announced plans to remove non-native rats from the Pacific Island of Henderson, in an attempt to prevent the global extinction of a unique seabird, the Henderson petrel (Pterodroma atrata). The introduced Polynesian rats (Rattus exulans) are eating an estimated 25,000 petrel chicks every year, and are also thought to be threatening the island’s other native bird species.
Part of the UK Overseas Territory of the Pitcairn Islands, Henderson Island is a remote, uninhabited island with a unique array of wildlife, including large numbers of breeding seabirds and four endemic land birds. Although still remarkably untouched by humans, the presence of rats is threatening the survival of many of the island’s native species, and may already be responsible for the extinction of four endemic birds. If left unchecked, rat predation will also lead to the eventual extinction of the Henderson petrel, which is not known to breed anywhere else in the world.
In an attempt to save the Henderson petrel, the RSPB is now planning the complete eradication of rats from the island. Speaking about the planned project, Dr Tim Stowe, the RSPB’s International Director, said, “This week, the world’s leaders will be gathering in Japan to discuss how to stem the catastrophic declines in global biodiversity, especially on islands. This project is a good example of how we can make a difference to global conservation, provided more donors can help us reach our funding target.”
Planned to start in August 2011, the eradication programme will cost a total of £1.7 million, of which a further £600,000 is still needed in donations. With 95 percent of petrel chicks on the island lost to rats every year, the need for this project is clear. However, if successful, the eradication should not only save the Henderson petrel, but also benefit Henderson Island’s other threatened wildlife and help restore the natural beauty of this remote Pacific paradise.
Some of the species unique to Henderson Island include:
Found only on Henderson Island, the Henderson crake is a flightless bird whose eggs and chicks are vulnerable to predation by introduced rats.
As its name suggests, the Henderson fruit-dove feeds on a variety of fruits. Its restriction to a single island makes this colourful species vulnerable to extinction.
The Henderson reed-warbler is another bird species unique to Henderson Island. Like all of the island’s species, it is vulnerable to any further introductions of mammalian predators, such as the black rat (Rattus rattus).
Also known as Stephen’s lorikeet, the endemic Henderson lorikeet, along with Henderson Island’s other bird species, is vulnerable to the introduction of avian diseases, such as avian malaria and pox.
To find out more about the planned rat eradication programme on Henderson Island, see:
- RSPB: RSPB plans to remove rodents from Pacific paradise:
For more information on conservation in the Pitcairn Islands, see:
- RSPB: Henderson Island Restoration Project:
- UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum: Pitcairn Islands: