Final Checks Made Before Islands Can Be Declared ‘Rat Free’

Seabird Recovery Project teamA former Bryher resident has returned to Scilly from New Zealand to help assess whether St Agnes and Gugh can be officially declared ‘rat-free.’

Jo Greenman has travelled to the islands along with her husband Ian and Biz Bell, of New Zealand-based Wildlife Management International.

Jo attended school on St Mary’s and says that Scilly, “always has a special place in her heart.”

WMI from Blenheim on the South Island were contracted by the RSPB-led project team to oversee the rat cull.

They last visited the islands two years ago.

Efforts to wipe out the rats started in 2013 after a study three years earlier indicated that the rodents were the biggest threat to the internationally important rare bird breeding sites, notably those of the Manx shearwater and storm petrel.

Then back in September 2014, following the first phase of the work, Manx shearwater chicks hatched on St Agnes for the first time in living memory and Seabird Recovery Project organisers saw that as a sign that the £900,000 scheme was working.

Over the next month the team will check monitoring stations for rats.

The stations have been loaded with a chocolate-mix that the rodents find attractive, leaving tell tale bit marks if they’re present.

If no rats are found then St Agnes and Gugh will become the UK’s first inhabited islands outside private ownership to gain rat-free status.

The project has attracted attention from communities across Europe who hope to follow Scilly’s lead.

The local team have already shared their experience with conservationists from Sardinia and the Scottish isles.

A high degree of close working and co-operation between the island’s 84 residents and team leaders, and an understanding of the benefits of the scheme, has seen as key to the project’s success.

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