Conservationists are seeing an increase in the threat that invasive rats pose to sea turtle eggs and hatchlings on Tetiaroa Atoll.
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Sea turtle populations around the world are facing population declines. Six of the seven species of sea turtles are considered threatened and while there are a number of factors including habitat loss, fishing by-catch, pollution, and the harvesting of eggs, the presence of invasive rats is a growing concern. However, there is hope—removing invasive rats from important sea turtle nesting islands can provide safe habitat.
New research on Tetiaroa Atoll, French Polynesia, documented predation by a species of invasive rats (Rattus rattus) at main sea turtle nesting sites. Researchers were authorized by the Direction of the Environment of French Polynesia to use motion-sensing cameras to monitor activity by invasive rats. The videos show both adult and juvenile rats digging and sniffing out areas where hatchlings would emerge only two days later. Footage from the nests strongly suggests that invasive rats are searching for and intentionally using hatchlings as a food source.
Although sea turtles face a number of threats, invasive rats are a solvable problem. Removing invasive rats from sea turtle nesting islands can prevent these kinds of predatory interactions and save sea turtle hatchlings as they emerge from the nests.
Conservation efforts on many sea turtle nesting islands including the removal of invasive rats from Tetiaroa and Ulithi Atolls are underway and will go on to benefit the global population of sea turtles.
Thank you to Markus Gronwald,
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