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Invasive Rats Were Finally Eradicated on 2 Galapagos Islands Thanks to Drone Partnership

Island conservation

Two years after a rodent eradication program began on two Galapagos Islands, conservatives are excited to finally declare the lands rat-free, and drones, for the first time, contributed to the great success.

The actions carried out over the last two years on the North Seymour and Mosquera islands will now allow the native biodiversity of the island ecosystems to return to normal.

North Seymour, for example, is home to one of the largest populations of magnificent frigates (pictured), whose eggs and young became constant prey for the two species of rats that had gone mad since they arrived with ships in the century. XIX and early XX.

In January 2019, Galapagos National Park officials along with the non-profit group Island Conservation worked with drone pilots from Envicto Technologies in a pioneering effort to eliminate the black rat and the Norwegian rat from both islands.

RELATED: Island invaded by rats fully recovers in just 11 years after the ecosystem was decimated

How they did it

The drone was equipped with a scatter cube and followed GPS-guided transects to distribute a “conservation bait” manufactured by Bell Laboratories across the island. After the initial deployment, bait was placed at stations along the coast, ensuring that no rodent ever invaded the island again.

“After two years of waiting, this project has given the expected results, in accordance with the planning and in accordance with the highest protocols for these cases,” said Danny Rueda, director of the Galapagos National Park this week. “Galapagos, once again, is a benchmark in terms of protecting this globally important ecosystem.”

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As a long-term preventive measure, a biosecurity barrier consisting of 289 bait stations will be installed to prevent a new invasion of rodents from Santa Cruz or Baltra, but still keep the trails safe for tourists to walk.

Advanced drone technology

The Seymour Norte and Mosquera islands were the first cases in which a drone was used to eradicate invading vertebrates from an island, serving as proof of concept, according to a Island conservation.

In 2021, similar projects on three island groups across the Pacific will be implemented using drones, particularly on small islets, where a manual project is not feasible, as was done on three islets on Tetiaroa Atoll where the bait was dispersed. by humans.

Drones will soon be used on Kamaka Island in the southeastern region of French Polynesia, benefiting seabirds at risk like the endangered Polynesian petrel.

Invasive vertebrate species are a leading cause of extinction on islands, contributing to 86% of recorded extinctions, but efforts to combat them, with more than 1,200 attempts to eradicate invasive mammals on islands around the world, have shown a success rate of 85%.

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Free of rodents, endemic and native plants and animals in these Galapagos Islands, they will be able to fulfill their ecological roles, guaranteeing the hatching of nests and the survival of birds and reptiles, including Galapagos land iguanas, blue-footed boobies, forked-tailed gulls. . (the only nocturnal gull on the planet, and the vulnerable Lava Gull, one of the rarest species of gulls on Earth.

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