Rat boxes / by Jerry

One of the reasons Bird Island is so important for wildlife is that it has never been populated by rats or mice. On the South Georgia mainland rats have decimated populations of the burrowing birds - the small petrels and prions - as well as terns and pipits. With the

rat eradication programme

it is hoped these species will recover, indeed the first nesting pipits have already been discovered.

There are several measures in place to combat the threat of rats. Firstly landings on the island are very restricted, provided only with special permission by the South Georgia government. The BAS ships that bring us our supplies are very rigorous about preventing rats and as everything we have comes ashore on small boxes from the tender there are plenty of opportunities for spotting rodents.

Poison-baited boxes will be around the jetty whenever we have a ship in but around the rest of the island there are a series of other rat boxes. These contain a block of chocolate wax made by melting together candles and cocoa powder then letting it harden in an ice-cube tray.

Location of rat boxes on Bird Island

As you see they are quite spread out across the island. One of my jobs is to travel round checking on them, specifically looking for gnawing marks in the wax block that would indicate the presence of rats or mice. Thankfully there have been none.

It is a good opportunity and excuse to get out to a variety of parts of the island I wouldn't necessarily travel to. 

The rat box just up from Main Bay, with nice views back toward base and La Roche.

We have other biosecurity measures to prevent more invasive species. Prior to leaving their ship and on arrival at the jetty all visitors are required to wash their footwear to remove any possible insects or seeds. Fresh fruit and vegetables are thoroughly checked, each and every potato, to remove insects, soil and mould.