Important seabird populations on the Ringgold Islands, Fiji, now face a brighter future after all seven islands were confirmed to be rat-free.
A two-year rat eradication programme, undertaken by the BirdLife International Fiji Programme in partnership with local landowning clans, used specially formulated bait to successfully remove introduced Pacific rats (Rattus exulans) from the remote islands. As in many parts of the Pacific, these invasive rodents posed a serious threat to native seabird populations, feeding on eggs and chicks. The rats also impacted local people by ruining crops and food stores.
Wildlife already benefitting
Early monitoring work suggests that birds and other wildlife are already benefitting from the removal of the rats. The bridled tern, not previously known in the area, has now bred on the islands, while other species which have benefitted include the lesser frigatebird, black noddy, brown noddy, red-footed booby and the globally Vulnerable bristle-thighed curlew.
Significant numbers of sea turtle nests have also been recorded on three of the islands, and there has been an increase in the activity of skinks such as the Pacific black skink (Emoia nigra), a species listed under Fiji’s Endangered and Protected Species Act.
Ringgold Seabird Committee
In association with the landowning communities, BirdLife International has set up a Site Support Group for the islands, known as the Ringgold Seabird Committee. This group will help to communicate the results of the rat eradication and promote the islands’ protection among the wider communities. Fishermen and visitors to the islands are also being encouraged to check boats and equipment for possible stowaways, and local people are being trained in techniques to prevent the introduction of alien species.
The rat eradication programme is only the first step in protecting the wildlife of the Ringgold Islands, and BirdLife International is continuing to work with local people to ensure that rats and other invasive species do not return to these important Fijian islands.
See the BirdLife International Fiji Programme for more information on BirdLife International’s work in this region.
Explore more endangered species from Fiji on ARKive.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Species Text Author