Campbell Island Rat Eradication

Campbell Is Eradication Team. Pete front row, third from right - 2001. Photo by P. Tyree

Campbell Is Eradication Team, Pete is front row third from right – 2001. Photo by P. Tyree

Pete McClelland was the Project Manager for the Campbell Island rat eradication in 2001. Pete shares his story about this significant island eradication.

“In 2001 DOC, long regarded internationally as the world leader in the eradication field, took rodent eradications to a whole new level. The Campbell Island rat eradication stretched the techniques which had been developed over the previous twenty years on projects such as Kapiti and Whenua Hou/ Codfish along with many smaller islands. The share scale of the island, at nearly 4 times the previous largest rat eradication ever attempted, let alone being 700km away from the mainland in the area justifiably known as the furious fifties, provided a whole range of new challenges. From getting the 120 tonnes of bait required to the island and then keeping it in good condition, to making sure that bait was put in every rats territory while having to work around the strong winds and low cloud that prevail at that latitude, it took detailed planning with contingencies where possible and a dedicated team to succeed.

Campbell Island computer room – 2001 – Photo by P. Tyree

Spreading bait

Spreading bait

It was 2006 before the project was able to be declared a success. Eradicating the rats has allowed a range of species including the endemic snipe and pipit and smaller seabirds to recolonise from the rat free islets offshore and the flightless Campbell Island teal which had been the focus of a 20 year captive breeding programme to be reintroduced.

Antipodes Snipe. Photo by K.Walker

Antipodes Snipe. Photo by K.Walker

Now the tourists which visit the island each summer are likely to get a glimpse of a secretive snipe or teal rather than seeing a Norway rat scurry across their path.

The success of the Campbell eradication has led to other countries taking on challenges that they would not previously have attempted. Countries including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia as well as many smaller Pacific island countries have all undertaken rodent eradications including Rat Island in the Aleutians (now returned to its original name of Howadax), Australia’s 13000ha Macquarie island south of Campbell Island and most recently 3700km2 South Georgia Island (completed this year ). This means that the area of land free from rodents has increased exponentially in recent years reducing the threat of extinction to many species.”

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