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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 35(3)

Testing island biosecurity systems for invasive rats

James C. Russell A D, Brent M. Beaven B, Jamie W. B. MacKay A, David R. Towns C, Mick N. Clout A

A School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand.
B Stewart Island Field Centre, Department of Conservation, PO Box 3, Stewart Island 9846, New Zealand.
C Research, Development & Improvement Division, Department of Conservation, Private Bag 68908, Auckland 1145, New Zealand.
D Corresponding author. Email: j.russell@auckland.ac.nz
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Rats continue to invade rat-free islands around the world, and it remains difficult to successfully intercept them before they establish populations. Successful biosecurity methods should intercept rats rapidly, before they can establish a population. Current island biosecurity practice employs techniques used for high-density rat eradication, assuming that they will be equally effective on low-density invaders. However, such approaches are often untested. Adult male Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) were individually released onto forested rat-free islands in New Zealand to test methods of detecting and eliminating a single invader. Only half the rats released were caught within a two-week timeframe, although the mean time to interception was just under 14 days. Permanent island biosecurity surveillance systems performed better than contingency responses. Success rates were higher on islands where complete coverage could be obtained, although surveillance systems using multiple devices eventually detected most invading rats. For some rats a change of methods was necessary. Single invading rats left a rat-free island despite the presence of excessive natural food resources. With surveillance systems comprising an array of tested island biosecurity devices, and where necessary a contingency response using alternative methods, it should be possible to maintain islands as rat-free even when they have a high reinvasion rate.

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