Bid to Eradicate Rats From St Agnes

The sandbar looking out towards Gugh

In the past few days, a six-figure bid has been registered with Brussels to fund the rat removal project on St Agnes and Gugh.

This EU bid was prepared and sent off by the RSPB’s International Funding Unit. It went together with a unanimous petiton of support signed by the entire adult population of Agnes and Gugh – all 71 permanent residents.

Even so it is likely to be next June or July before it is finally known whether or not grant money will be made available.

The aim of the project is to aid the survival of the Manx shearwater and storm petrel on Scilly, numbers of which have been declining in recent years.

Nests for these two species, as with puffins, offer an easy prey for rodents.

The Wildlife Trust currently keeps rat numbers under control on the uninhabited islands, but rat numbers are not controlled on the inhabited islands and a full-grown brown rat can swim more than a kilometre and stay afloat for up to three days at neap tides on a calm sea.

A New Zealand-based company called Wildlife Management International conducted a detailed survey of Scilly’s rat population last October. Its recently published report estimated that there were nearly 3,000 brown rats on Agnes and Gugh and some 30,000 living on the inhabited islands as a whole.

Wildlife Management’s research on Agnes showed that in addition to affecting seabird populations, brown rats had an impact on visitor enjoyment. They have an appetite for chickens and other ground nesting birds as well as the Scilly shrew.

Other potential partners and cash contributors to the scheme include the Duchy of Cornwall, the AONB, the Wildlife Trust and the Isles of Scilly Bird Group.