As part of a David and Lucile Packard Foundation project Société Calédonienne d’Ornithologie (SCO) the BirdLife Partner in New Caledonia, undertook operations in 2008 to eradicate invasive Black Rats Rattus rattus and Pacific Rat Rattus exulans from three important seabird islands in New Caledonia. The latest follow up surveys has confirmed that Table, Double and Tiam’bouène islands are all officially rat-free, and the bird populations are already showing signs of recovery.
The islands of Table (14 ha), Double ( 6 ha) and Tiam’bouène (17 ha) form part of the Îlots du Nord-Ouest Important Bird Areas (IBA) complex in Northwest New Caledonia. They are globally important for Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus, Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii, Fairy Tern Sterna nereis, Dark-brown Honeyeater Lichmera incana and Green-backed White-eye Zosterops xanthochroa which were being predated by introduced rats.
In September 2008, SCO completed operations to remove rats from the three islands, and the most recent follow up survey in mid-July 2011 has formally declared these operations successful following 24 months of rat-free monitoring.
Already bird populations are showing signs of recovery, and [Vulnerable] Fairy Tern nested on the islands for the first time in 2010; Tiam’bouène hosting a colony of 28 active nests. Another very encouraging result is the first ever presence of [Near Threatened] Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata which was found breeding on Table Island in July 2011.
On each island, along with many new bird species being recorded, SCO report that the eco-systems are also showing positive signs of recovery. SCO are grateful for the support received from several individuals and organizations in completing these eradications and in particular thank the Pacific Invasives Initiative, the New Zealand Department of Conservation, and BirdLife International for their assistance.
The removal of rats on these islands is therefore an important starting point for the management of IBA islands Northwest. It is also an important action for the conservation of Fairy Tern in New Caledonia with between 70 and 90 pairs now found in the IBA out of a total of 130 pairs in the country.
Next steps are to continue monitoring the biodiversity recovery of the islands, seek the creation of nature reserves to protect the tern colonies from human disturbance, and to expand rat eradication to additional islands included within the IBAs complex.