Once a World War II naval facility in the Pacific for the U.S. military, Palmyra Atoll today is a National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Nature Conservancy (TNC) who have joined with Island Conservation to rid the atoll of an estimated 30,000 non-native black rats.
Rats, likely introduced during the military occupation, have overpopulated the atoll, destroying the canopy of the rare Pisonia forest and preventing seabirds from building their nests.
A month-long, rat eradication effort in June 2011, included aerial broadcasting of Bell's conservation bait specially formulated to withstand the high humidity level on the atoll, hand and bait station baiting, and crown baiting the forest canopy, is expected to ultimately restore one of the last remaining native coastal strand (Pisonia) forests in the Pacific, thereby protecting hundreds of thousands of nesting seabirds and the rare Coconut Crab, the largest land invertebrate on Earth.
South Georgia Island
Located in the Antarctic some 1,750 km east of the southern tip of South America, South Georgia Island will be the site of the largest island rat eradication project in the world to date. Undertaken by the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT), the Habitat Restoration Project aims to rid the 150 km-long Antarctic Island of invasive Norway rats. The non-native rats were first introduced to the island by ship from early explorers, whalers and sea hunters and have since been preying on the eggs and chicks of nesting seabirds. Scientists hope to save the native South Georgia pipit from extinction and increase the number of breeding seabirds by millions.
Bell Laboratories is working with the SGHT over the next five years as the exclusive rodenticide supplier. Bell specially manufactured brodifacoum pellets to be used as aerial bait to ensure the project's success and return South Georgia to its natural state.
The Galápagos Islands, named a World Heritage Site in 1979, is the only tropical archipelago with over 95 percent of its biodiversity intact. Bell Labs is working in conjunction with Island Conservation and the Charles Darwin Foundation to save their variety of native species from extinction. Rats, which first came to the islands aboard ships in the late 17th century, have seriously endangered some 50 bird species, including the Galápagos petrel, a seabird that breeds in excavated tunnels on high islands only in the Galápagos.
The smaller islands that were baited in January 2011 are home to 12 unique Galápagos species threatened with extinction. Many native plants, iguanas and even the giant Galápagos tortoises are at risk from rats. On the large Island of Pinzon, rats prey on tortoise eggs and hatchlings.
Bell's development of a specialized rodenticide to rid the island of these invaders and save the endangered species will help focus a global spotlight on threatened wildlife populations.
Rat Island, the 26-sq. kilometer island located in the Aleutian chain some 2,080 km west of Anchorage, Alaska, is officially rat-free as of August 2010.
Aptly named, Rat Island was saturated with rats since they first found their way to land after a 1780s shipwreck in the north Pacific. Over the years, as rat populations grew, the number of seabirds and seabird species on the island declined. With dangerously few birds left on Rat Island, collaborative members of the Aleutian Seabird Restoration Project worked to reverse that trend by ridding the island of rats. The method of eradication was aerial application of a special brodifacoum bait developed by Bell. Brodifacoum is a single-feed bait, hence rodents can consume a lethal dose in a short amount of time.
Bell developed a hard, bright-green pellet bait, one half-inch in diameter and length for the Rat Island project. The pellets were designed to survive an aerial drop yet not drift off the mark. The larger size also made them too large for small birds which significantly reduced the risk of non-target poisoning. The bait had to remain palatable for about two weeks but could not last longer, so as to lessen the probability of non-target poisoning.
From 2005 to 2008, Bell teamed up with the New Zealand based company, Wildlife Management International, Ltd. (WMIL) and the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) to eradicate the destructive Norway rats from Canna Island. The island, located some 42km off the west coast of Scotland, was plagued with the non-native rats that were destroying indigenous seabird nesting colonies. Once a sanctuary for breeding puffins, kittiwakes, razorbills and other seabirds, Canna experienced drastic declines in both breeding seabird populations and the number of chicks reared ever since the arrival of the predatory rats. The rats were first introduced to the island by ferry traffic over a century ago.
For the eradication project Bell supplied the team with Ditrac Blox bait. Diphacinone, the active ingredient in Ditrac, is a first-generation rodenticide that is lethal to rats. Ten blox were initially placed in each station and over 4,000 stations were used in a comprehensive grid baiting system across the whole island. By the end of the baiting period of the project in early 2006, an estimated 5,000 rats had been killed using Ditrac Blox on Canna Island. In mid 2008, following a thorough 2-year monitoring period in which no renewed rat activity was detected, Canna was officially declared "rat free".
Black rats were introduced to Anacapa Island prior to 1940s and had since been preying on the eggs of seabirds and young chicks. This led to a dramatic decline in both the number and range of seabird species on Anacapa Island.
Bell worked with the Island Conservation and Ecology Group (ICEG) in conjunction with government, naturalist and environmental groups to help rectify the situation. The island has extensive steep cliffs, making placement of bait into the territory of every rat exceptionally difficult. The bait was therefore formulated to be able to be applied from a hopper suspended under a helicopter. Bell developed a specific rodenticide tailored to control the rats while addressing the environmental concerns within the island's unique habitat.
The resulting bait was attractive to black rats but unappealing in color, shape and size to non-target species. It also decomposed quickly, ensuring that no active ingredients remained in the ecosystem after the project ended. It was also durable enough for aerial application yet sized to minimize drifting.
Phase I, application of bait to East Anacapa Island, was completed in December 2001. Then Phase II, treatment of Middle and West Anacapa, was completed in the fall of 2002.