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January 29th, 2014
Saving the World’s Most Endangered Lizards
January 29th, 2014
Salvando a las Lagartijas en Mayor Peligro del Mundo
November 25th, 2013
Island Conservation Impact Report
October 23rd, 2013
Hawadax Island Recovery Exceeding Expectations
October 15th, 2013
One Step Closer to Restoring Balance and Safe Seabird Habitat in Gwaii Haanas
July 24th, 2013
Back from the Brink of Extinction
July 24th, 2013
International Experts Convened to Improve Tropical Island Rodent Eradications
June 11th, 2013
Titi on Tahanea get a Helping Hand; Globally Endangered Shorebird Protected
June 11th, 2013
Coup de pouce pour les Titi de Tahanea. Protection d’un limicole en danger d’extinction
June 11th, 2013
Parks Canada and the Haida Nation Restoring Critical Seabird Habitat
June 4th, 2013
Native Iguanas and Shearwaters Saved from Invasive Mice on Allen Cay, The Bahamas
May 16th, 2013
Invasive Species: The 18-km2 rat trap
February 14th, 2013
Island Night Lizard: No longer threatened?
February 14th, 2013
Island Recovery Evident Ten Years after the Removal of Rats
January 14th, 2013
Battle at the End of Eden by Amanda R. Martinez
January 14th, 2013
Native Species Expected to Rebound on Rat-free Palmyra Atoll
December 8th, 2012
Galápagos Restoration Projects Makes Islands Safe for Native Species
December 8th, 2012
Island Conservation Opens New Office in Hawaii
July 31st, 2012
Funding secured for Lord Howe Island restoration
July 31st, 2012
Tahanea Atoll Motus now safe for the Titi!
July 31st, 2012
Island Conservation and Birdlife International Form Partnership to Tackle Pacific Pests
June 14th, 2012
Million Dollar Mouse Campaign
May 31st, 2012
It's Official!
May 1st, 2012
Restoring Wildlife Habitat on Desecheo Island
May 1st, 2012
Restauración del Hábitat del Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre de Desecheo
October 31st, 2011
The Sounds of Recovery
October 31st, 2011
Olivier Langrand joins Island Conservation as Director of Global Affairs
ARCHIVED ARTICLES
02/2012 Native Species on San Nicolas Island are Now Free to Reclaim Their Island Home
09/2011 Meet Dr. Ray Nias
09/2011 Palmyra: No Place for Pessimists
09/2011 Palmyra Atoll Restoration Project Completes Operational Phase to Remove Non-native Rats
07/2011 Island Hopping: Saving Species in the Tropical Pacific
04/2011 Meet our new Caribbean Regional Director!
03/2011 The Surfer's Journal meets Island Conservation
03/2011 Galapagos Restoration Partners Release Hawks Back to Islands
03/2011 Socios a cargo de la restauración de Galápagos liberan a veinte gavilanes en las islas
01/2011 Galápagos Restoration Project Achieves Conservation Milestone
12/2010 Island Conservation's 2009 Annual Report
12/2010 Island Conservation's Annual Report
08/2010 Rat Island is officially rat-free!
08/2010 IC helps Robinson Crusoe Island residents with tsunami recovery
05/2010 Meet our new South America Regional Director!
05/2010 Author David Quammen speaks on behalf of Island Conservation
03/2010 2010 International Year of Biodiversity
12/2009 Island Conservation's 2008 Annual Report
09/2009 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Publishes Priority List for Restoration of Islands with Invasive Species
05/2009 Island Conservation Honored with Department of Interior Partners in Conservation Award
12/2008 Saving Seabirds in the Aleutians
04/2008 IC and Galapagos and Machalilla National Parks unite to protect Waved Albatross on Isla de la Plata

 
September 7th, 2011
Palmyra Atoll Restoration Project Completes Operational Phase to Remove Non-native Rats
Protects Millions of Seabirds, Coconut Crabs, and one of the Largest Remaining Tropical Coastal Strand Forests in the Pacific

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and Island Conservation (IC) today announced that summer 2011 fieldwork to restore Palmyra Atoll by removing destructive, non-native rats was just completed safely and efficiently, along with the first phase of scientific monitoring. The restoration project aims to protect 10 nesting seabird species, migratory shorebirds, the rare coconut crab, and one of the largest remaining native Pisonia forests in the Pacific Islands.

Palmyra Atoll, approximately 1,000 miles south of Honolulu, Hawai‘i, is cooperatively managed by the FWS and TNC as a National Wildlife Refuge and a small research station.Research done at Palmyra can help inform conservation strategies around the world by providing essential information about how healthy ecosystems respond to global climate change, invasive species, and marine restoration, to name a few. Scientists are also learning how healthy ecosystems function free from human influences such as pollution and overfishing.

In June 2011, personnel and contractors from FWS, TNC, Island Conservation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Geological Survey, successfully carried out the application of bait to remove destructive rats from the 25 islets that comprise the atoll, while minimizing threats from the bait to other animals. The operations followed extensive planning outlined in FWS’s May 2011 Environmental Impact Statement and was supported by years of scientific research. Comprehensive monitoring will take place over the next two years to assess the status of the eradication effort and how the atoll responds to rat removal. Several researchers returned to the atoll in August and completed the first phase of monitoring. After deploying hundreds of detection devices throughout the atoll, no signs of rats were found.


“Although it will be 2 years before we can confirm rat removal, the operations were a great achievement, having been carried out both safely and efficiently” said Susan White, Project Leader of the Pacific Reefs National Wildlife Refuge Complex and operations Incident Commander. “Each aspect of the project and each person on our 41-person team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals was essential to achieving this goal in such a complex and challenging environment as Palmyra.”

Black rats, likely introduced to the atoll during World War II, prey upon ground-nesting and tree-nesting birds, consuming eggs and chicks. Rats are also likely responsible for the absence of several species of burrow-nesting seabirds such as shearwaters and petrels that would likely otherwise breed at Palmyra. Rats compete for food with shorebirds, attack native land crabs, and eat the seeds and seedlings of native trees.

“The lessons learned from removing invasive rats from Palmyra Atoll is critical to the survival of seabirds and native species on islands around the world. Following upon successful projects in temperate climates, like Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands National Park and Rat Island in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the methods developed for and proven at Palmyra set a precedent for subsequent efforts to restore other tropical islands, protecting species in places where it might have seemed impossible before,” according to Bill Waldman, Island Conservation’s Executive Director.

The project goal was to expose every rat on the atoll to bait while mitigating impacts to native species. The project partners were particularly concerned about the potential for exposing native geckos and shorebirds to bait. As a precautionary measure, project staff held geckos in captivity during the month of June and successfully returned them to their respective islets after operations finished.

Project team members also were some of the first people to successfully capture and care for bristle-thighed curlews in captivity. In an effort to protect as many shorebirds as possible from potential exposure to the rodenticide, 13 curlews and one Pacific golden plover were captured and cared for between early June and early August. All 14 birds were safely released back to the wild on August 4th. Of the 13 curlews that were in captive care, 8 have been spotted since their release, having joined flocks of non-captured birds. The scientific knowledge gained through this capture and care provides significant contributions to future conservation programs focused on bristle-thighed curlews and other shorebirds.

Bristle-thighed Curlew release on Palmyra Atoll. Photo: USFWS
 
Partners are cautiously encouraged by daily indicators of a rat-free Palmyra. Sooty terns, native trees, insects, various invertebrates and crab populations all appear to be flourishing.
 
The Palmyra Atoll Restoration Project was also part of a unique collaborative partnership to restore a series of islands in the Pacific in 2011, including Palmyra Atoll (USA), several islands in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (Republic of Kiribati), and Henderson Island (Pitcairn Islands) by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. A combined expedition allowed three projects to share a support vessel (the Research Vessel Aquila), helicopters, equipment, and some personnel. All three projects were focused on safeguarding native animals and plants by removing introduced invasive rats. The last of the three projects was completed at the end of August and the crew and the Research vessel Aquila are headed home. 
 
For more information about Palmyra Atoll Restoration Project, visit www.protectpalmyra.org.

For photos or questions, contact: 

Amy Carter, Island Conservation
amy.carter@islandconservation.org, 831-359-4787 ext.104

Evelyn Wight, The Nature Conservancy
ewight@tnc.org, 808-587-6277

Susan White, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
susan_white@fws.gov, 808-792-9560

Download a .pdf of this press release here

 

Aerial View of Palmyra Atoll. Photo: Erik Oberg

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