‘We Did It!’ Says St Agnes As Island Declared Officially ‘Rat Free’

Seabird Recovery Project teamSt Agnes and Gugh have officially been declared ‘rat free.’

It follows a month-long inspection by the Seabird Recover Project Team, just over two years after the last signs of rat activity were spotted in November 2013.

And to celebrate the hard work of the community, a party was held on St Agnes last night, including fireworks and the performance of a special song by pupils of the Five Islands School.

The project is the world’s largest community-led rat removal scheme and local volunteers worked with conservationists from the Seabird Recovery Project and specialist company, Wildlife Management International.

Brown rats arrived on the islands in the 18th century following several shipwrecks.

The population grew and became harmful to the burrow-nesting seabirds that lived on the islands, including European storm petrels and Manx shearwaters.

And there are already signs of success.

Since the removal of the rodents, the project team has observed both shearwaters and storm petrels breeding successfully for the first time in living memory, with over 40 chicks being recorded on the islands in the last two years.

Project manager Jaclyn Pearson said: “Getting to this stage is a fantastic achievement and everyone involved is delighted that the islands are now officially rat free.

“This, and the recovery of the seabirds so early on, is testament to the hard work of the team and the 100% support from the local community. We look forward to continuing to work with the community for the next two years of the project and beyond.”

Scilly’s Wildlife Trust manager Sarah Mason said the Trust’s land management work is now more important than ever.

“We must ensure that habitats across the islands are suitable for our iconic seabirds so that they can be enjoyed by future generations” said Sarah.

Funding for the work came from EU LIFE and the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as local organisations.