Island Conservation galapagos national park invasive species drone

Press Release: Ecological Restoration of North Seymour Island Underway Thanks to Rat Removal

Contact: Sally Esposito, Island Conservation, Director of Communications and Marketing, +1 706-969-2783, sally.esposito@islandconservation.org
Resources: Photo, B-Roll, Interviews

Puerto Ayora, January 24, 2019

The Ministry of Environment through the Directorate of the Galápagos National Park (Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos – DPNG) together with the NGO Island Conservation started eradicating invasive rodents from North Seymour Island and the Mosquera Islet in January 2019. These islands are important tourism and seabird nesting sites for species such as frigate birds and swallow-tailed gulls, which are the only nocturnal gull on the planet.

Monitoring activities in early 2018 determined that North Seymour was infested by black (Rattus rattus) and brown rats (Rattus norvegicus). DPNG immediately began managing the project’s development after declaring a state of emergency, which secured funds from the Fund for Sustainable Environmental Investments (FIAS).

Bell Laboratories produced 3,000 kilograms of rodenticide for the eradication. The bait’s formula was designed especially for projects within the Galápagos Archipelago due to their unique weather conditions.

Island Conservation Galapagos National Park Seymour Norte invasive species Drone
Technicians setting the drone up for the operation. Credit: Island Conservation
Island Conservation Galapagos National Park Seymour Norte invasive species Drone
Remote monitoring of the drone. Credit: Island Conservation

The Guadalupe River (DPNG’s boat) was used as base camp for the project. Over 30 park rangers were equipped with masks, goggles, and protective clothing to manually disperse the bait on 48% of North Seymour’s 184 ha and the 5 ha of the Mosquera Islet, adjacent to the island.

With the support of Island Conservation and New Zealand’s Environment and Conservation Technologies LTD., a pilot project was implemented using drones and hoppers with applicators designed in 3D printers. 52% coverage of North Seymour Island was possible using this equipment, making it the world’s first use of drones to remove invasive vertebrates.

Island Conservation Galapagos National Park Seymour Norte invasive species Drone
Island Conservation’s Mele Khalsa and Chad Hanson monitoring the drone’s progress on North Seymour Island, Galápagos. Credit: Island Conservation

Karl Campbell, Island Conservation South American Regional Director, highlighted that before for this type of operations, it was necessary to use helicopters, specialized pilots, and bait spray buckets.

The use of drones is more precise; it also increases feasibility, and reduces eradication costs of invasive rodents in small and midsize islands worldwide,”

Karl Campbell, Island Conservation South American Regional Director.

Prior to the application, tests and measurements were carried out to guarantee correct bait dispersion on the targeted area. Afterwards, park rangers proceeded with follow-up monitoring to verify the expected coverage in the established transects and bait consumption by the rodents.

Island Conservation Galapagos National Park Seymour Norte invasive species Drone Magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens)
Magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens), North Seymour Island. Credit: Island Conservation

Jorge Carrión, Director of Galápagos National Park, specified that a second application and monitoring will take place by the end of January to eliminate any remaining rodents.

The eradication of introduced species required that North Seymour Island be temporarily closed for visits from January 8 to February 8. After reopening, the site will have informative signs for visitors.

Island Conservation Galapagos National Park Seymour Norte invasive species Drone Blue-footed Boobie (Sula nebouxii)
Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii). North Seymour Island. Credit: Island Conservation

Christian Sevilla, a park ranger, said that first phase of the project will take place until the end of January, but the ecological monitoring will continue for the next two years. This is the time needed to declare the island rodent-free and have evidence of the recovery of the ecosystem, monitoring the proliferation of cacti and other species.

This project was made possible due to support from Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund, Silversea Cruises, Galapagos Biodiversity & Education for Sustainability fund Ecoventura – Charles Darwin Foundation, Metropolitan Touring, Fondo Especies Invasoras Galapagos, Rapid Response Facility, Bell Labs, International Galápagos Tour Operators Association, individual donors that gave their support through the SOS North Seymour campaign, and other private and public donors.

About the partners:

Island Conservation is the only global, not-for-profit conservation organization whose mission is to prevent extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. We work where the concentration of both biodiversity and species extinction is greatest – islands. Removing a primary threat – introduced invasive vertebrates – is one of the most critical interventions for saving threatened plants and animals and restoring island ecosystems. Once invasive species are removed, native island species and ecosystems can recover, often with little additional intervention. To date, we have successfully restored 63 islands worldwide, benefiting 1173 populations of 468 species and subspecies. Island Conservation is headquartered in Santa Cruz, CA with field offices in British Columbia, Chile, Ecuador, Hawai’i, New Zealand, Palau, and Puerto Rico.

About Island Conservation

Island Conservation prevents extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. To date, we have successfully restored 64 islands worldwide, benefiting 1195 populations of 487 species and subspecies. Working together with local communities, government management agencies, and conservation organizations, we select islands that have the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species.

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