Saving Seabirds in the Aleutians

The Rat Island Restoration Project is the third largest project of its kind in the world and the largest in North America

Island Conservation, the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and The Nature Conservancy successfully completed the first phase of a long-term project to restore Rat Island in the Aleutian archipelago. The three partner organizations removed invasive rats that have prevented seabirds from nesting on the island. The implementation phase began September 26, 2008 after 3 years of planning. With almost unprecedented clear weather, helicopters and field crew were able to complete operations in just 9 days.

Rats have decimated the seabird population on Rat Island (which is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge) since they first arrived after a shipwreck in the 1780s. While about 40 million seabirds nest on other islands in the refuge, Rat Island can only support seabird nesting at the most minimal level. Around the world introduced invasive species such as rats are a leading cause of extinction in island communities. Invasive rats have been introduced to about 90 percent of the world’s islands and are responsible for 40-60 percent of all recorded bird extinctions. The Rat Island Restoration Project is one example of global efforts to remove invasive species from otherwise healthy island ecosystems.

A dramatic return of seabird populations, such as Whiskered Auklets and Tufted Puffins, is expected. The partners aim to restore 150,000 acres of seabird habitat on ten large islands, culminating on Kiska Island. On Kiska, rats threaten a colony of 1.5 million Least Auklets – the largest colony of its kind in Alaska. The Rat Island Restoration Project will restore 6,861 acres of potential seabird breeding habitat.

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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