QUITO, Ecuador – A full-scale assault is targeting invasive rats that threaten the survival of birds, tortoises, iguanas and native plants of the Galapagos Islands, whose unique flora and fauna were studied by Charles Darwin as he developed his theory of evolution.
Black rats, Norway rats and house mice, believed introduced to the Pacific Ocean archipelago by ships beginning in the late 17th century, are being attacked with a specially designed poison spread by helicopter.
The idea is to eradicate all nonnative rodents, beginning with small- and medium-sized islands, without endangering other wildlife.
Developed and donated by Bell Laboratories of Madison, Wis., the poison was first employed last weekend on Rabida, Sombrero Chino, Bartolome and Plaza Norte islands, as well as five islets.
The poisoned bait is contained in light blue cubes that attract rats but are repulsive for the sea lions and birds that also inhabit the islands.
Officials say they will know in mid-February whether it has been successful.
The project is being run by the Galapagos National Park Service with the backing of the Charles Darwin Foundation, Island Conservation, the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Victor Carrion, the project’s manager, said a total of 50 bird species are endangered by the rodents as well as giant tortoises, iguanas and a series of plants.