Team From Sardinia Learn How St Agnes Is Staying Rat Free

The team from Sardinia with members of the Seabird Recovery Project.

The team from Sardinia with members of the Seabird Recovery Project.

Three Italian environmental workers visited St Agnes on Tuesday to learn about the Seabird Recovery Project. They’re part of a team working to protect shearwater populations on the island of Tavolara, off the northeast coast of Sardinia.

Just like our own project on St Agnes and Gugh, the Italians had tried to eradicate rats on their island, but they found the rodents reinvaded within two years.

They were here to see how biosecurity measures are being introduced on St Agnes to stop that from happening.

Giovanna Spano said she saw how important it was to involve the island’s community in the work, adding that the residents appeared to be positive about the project and understood the aims.

Giovanna said people only live on Tavolara during the summer and they’ve had to work with a single family that owns the two restaurants and boat service there.

Paolo Sposimo pointed to other differences – they had to use a helicopter to distribute the rat bait on their island. But he said the process of keeping rats out permanently is going to be very similar.

The team were shown how volunteers monitor for signs of rats using small blocks of chocolate-flavoured wax. Every two weeks, they’re inspected for teeth marks. So far no new signs of rats have been discovered on St Agnes.

Vickie Heaney also gave them a tour of Manx shearwater breeding burrows. She said the nests were “quite active” which is a good sign. This is the first year without rats preying on the eggs.