Alien Eradications - Protecting Seabird Breeding Sites
Invasive alien species are affecting native wildlife in almost every corner of the Earth. An unwanted by-product of globalization, non-native species - like rats, cats, pigs and mice - are harming ecosystem services, livelihoods and economies throughout the world.
In response to these threats, the BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme are involved in a range of projects which are successfully removing unwanted pests from islands around the world – particularly in the Pacific region.
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Invasive alien species (back to top)
Invasive alien species are plants, animals and other organisms that are not native to an ecosystem. Introduced species - such as rats and cats - are one of the greatest drivers of biodiversity loss, and have been implicated in almost half of all bird extinctions in the past five centuries.
Size of the threat (back to top)
In total, over half of the world’s Globally Threatened birds (51%) are currently threatened by alien invasive species. The problem is especially acute on islands where long isolation has led to the evolution of species that often lack adequate defences against introduced species.
Seabirds have deteriorated in status the fastest of all bird groups over the last two decades. This is closely linked to the combined impacts of invasive alien species at nesting colonies and the expansion of commercial longline and trawl fisheries in seabird feeding areas.
Eradication work (back to top)
Much of the Pacific region’s biodiversity is threatened with extinction. Since 1500, 88% of known bird extinctions have been on islands. Birds, in particular, have evolved on islands in the absence of alien species and have few defenses against them, while habitat destruction is a chronic and increasing threat. The Pacific region is critically important for seabirds, which pose their own, distinct, conservation issues.
A range of invasive aliens, including rats, cats, pigs, dogs, mongoose, snakes, ants, plants and pathogens, are now posing serious threats to the survival of native species while habitat loss continues apace, particularly on larger islands. A range of methods has now been developed to control or eradicate alien invasives and has proved successful - especially on big islands or for developing nations.
The BirdLife Pacific Partnership is involved in a programme of invasive species eradications to address this increasingly serious threat to seabirds. Below is a summary of the work to date:
Completed project - Protecting the internationally important seabird colony of Vatu-i-Ra Island
Vatu-i-Ra is a small island in Fiji, and an IBA supporting more than 10,000 pairs of breeding seabirds of six species. The community that owns the island was keen to protect its resource and to develop low-impact tourist visits there. However, a very high population of rats was an immediate threat because rats predate eggs and chicks of seabirds and are responsible for the destruction of countless seabird colonies.
This project was aimed to remove the rats from Vatu-i-Ra island, establish biosecurity controls to prevent re-invasion, and to train community members in rat eradication, seabird identification, and methods for preventing the re-establishment of rats and other introduced species. The project was carried out in 2006/2007 and in 2008, eighteen months after the actual eradication exercise, the island has been declared rat free. Quarantine measures to prevent an accidental reintroduction of rats or other invasive species have been adopted by the island landowners and are being promoted among other communities associated with the island. Read more here.
Completed project - Restoration of globally important seabird colonies in the Pacific by the removal of rats and other invasive predators
During the course of the three year project, operations to eradicate rats were successfully implemented on 13 internationally and 3 nationally important seabird islands. The completion of these 16 operations represented a significant achievement for the BirdLife Pacific Partnership and an important contribution to seabird and biodiversity conservation in the region. Collectively these operations have created 306ha of predator-free island habitat, protecting breeding colonies for 17 species of seabird and many other native life-forms including uncommon and threatened landbirds, reptiles, invertebrates, and plants. Read more here.
Current Project - Restoration of Important Pacific Seabird Islands - Phase 2
With renewed support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation the Partnership is extending the restoration programme to an additional 19 important seabird islands in Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, the Cook Islands, and Palau. Over the next two years the Partnership will plan for and eradicate rats and cats from these islands; monitor seabird and biological responses to the removal of predators; and work with local communities and government agencies towards the long-term security of restored seabird islands.
Most importantly, this project will lead to the restoration of breeding habitats for 30 seabird species and five Globally Threatened landbirds. The programme will be implemented by BirdLife Partners in French Polynesia Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie; New Caledonia The Société Calédonienne d'Ornithologie; The Cook Islands Taporoporoanga Ipukarea Society; and Palau The Palau Conservation Society. For more information, click here.
Current project - Restoration of priority Pacific island ecosystems for people and biodiversity
The UK Government Darwin Initiative funded aims to improve the quality of life and livelihoods of people through the restoration and subsequent sustainable management of island ecosystems in Palau and Fiji. The project consists of four main strategic elements:
- Eradicate rodents and cats from Kayangel atoll in Palau.
- Develop capacity of civil society and the Government of Palau in all aspects of IAS eradication and island biosecurity (prevention of reintroductions).
- Support sustainable management of restored islands and facilitate the establishment of appropriate forms of community-based Protected Areas at nine sites in Fiji (Vatu-i-Ra, Mabualau and the seven Ringgold islands - all made rat-free through in previous BirdLife projects) and at Kayangel atoll in Palau.
- Disseminate skills and best practices through a state-of-the-art media plan, a best practice manual and the establishment of an innovative regional network of practitioners and experts engaged in the development and implementation of cat and rodent eradication projects.