South Georgia, located 1800km from the southern tip of South America, is home to some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife. The islands were historically used as a sealing and whaling station and this human presence in the area resulted in the introduction of Norway or Brown rats. The rats feed on the millions of eggs and chicks in the breeding grounds utilized by many bird species. Glaciers that once acted as natural boundaries restricting the rats to certain parts of the island are retreating allowing the rats to spread to other parts of South Georgia. This is threatening many of the island’s 31 bird species and some now face extinction.
Your donation will support a Habitat Preservation program, which aims to eradicate rats from South Georgia by 2015. Phase 1 of this program was carried out in 2011, and bait was spread by helicopter over 12,800 hectares. Phase 2 will begin in 2013 with the ultimate goal of clearing 1,000 square km of land of these invasive species. The eradication of rodents from the island of South Georgia is expected to result in the return of over 100 million breeding birds to the island and return it to its previous status as one of the most important seabird sanctuaries in the world.
South Georgia is an area known for its rich diversity of wildlife and historical significance. A breeding area for Antarctic Fur and Elephant seals, South Georgica is also home to some of the world’s largest colonies of King Penguins. Hundreds of thousands of albatross and millions of petrels also return to breed in South Georgia each year. The introduction of Norway rats brought over by whaling and sealing vessels has caused severe damage to the island’s fragile ecosystem by eating native plants, seeds, insects and birds. Many species of breeding birds now only survive on the offshore islands of South Georgia that are currently free of rats.
With global warming resulting in the depletion of South Georgia’s glaciers, these natural boundaries no longer restrict the rodent populations movement across the area. Through this Habitat Preservation program, three helicopters will be used to carry out annual bait drops. These are carried out between mid-February and mid-May, between the breeding seasons of most species and before the annual snowfall begins. With the conclusion of this program by 2015, many areas of South Georgia will be used as a breeding area for the first time in over 200 years.