Sunday 17 March 2024

Hundreds Of Tons Of Poison To Be Dropped On Antarctic Mice By Helicopter

 The tiny sub-Antarctic Marion Island is the planned target of a mouse eradication project by scientists who intend to drop hundreds of tons of poison from helicopters in order to save the territory’s native birds, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Marion, one of the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands, is a South African territory some 1,190 miles (1,920 km) southeast of Cape Town, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. It has been home to house mice since they stowed away on seal hunting ships 200 years ago; now, due to accelerated breeding in recent years, they are causing a serious threat to local biodiversity, the AP reports.

Scientists claim that due to climate change extending the species’ breeding season, the house mice population has grown significantly, threatening the survival of many rare local species, according to the outlet.

“They are probably one of the most successful animals in the world. They’ve got to all sorts of places … their breeding season has been extended, and this has resulted in a massive increase in the densities of mice,” according to Dr. Anton Wolfaardt of the Mouse-Free Marion Project.

Drastic action is being called for to eliminate the invasive mammals; the plan involves dropping 550 tons of rodenticide bait on the 115-mile-wide island, according to the outlet. The bait is being designed with the intention of not contaminating the water supply and should only inflict minimal damage on the native animals, including the endangered birds they are seeking to protect, according to the outlet. Dr. Wolfaardt, however, has cautioned, “There’s no perfect solution in these kinds of things.”

The project is hoping to get the go-ahead in 2027 and will be partly funded by the South African government, according to Sky News. It will not, however, be the first time an effort has been made to control the mouse numbers on Marion.

In a potentially cautionary tale, house cats were introduced to the island in 1944 but, by 1977, the population had grown to over 3,000 and were an even greater threat to local wildlife than that posed by the mice, according to the outlet. In 1986 hunters were deployed to shoot and trap the problematic felines in a process which took around four years, according to Conservation Evidence.

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