Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Rodent Ops in the South Pacific

July 29th, 2010 · 7 Comments

Ever since reading Robert Sullivan’s Rats, I’ve become convinced that the furry little banes of urban sanitation will someday rule the world. They are like land-dwelling versions of the dreaded zebra mussel, adept at turning a minor incursion into a full-blown invasion before any Homo sapiens are the wiser. And once they’ve conquered a piece of territory, they’re oh-so-difficult to expel—though, granted, not impossible, as evidenced by our recent triumph on Alaska’s Rat Island.

But cousins of those Aleutian critters are now running roughshod in the South Pacific, with devestating environmental results:

With five species of bird found nowhere else on earth, Henderson Island – part of the Pitcairn group – is one of the richest wildlife islands in the world. However, non-native Pacific rats are threatening the future of several of these species. In particular, the rats are killing and eating 25,000 seabird chicks each year, including those of the Henderson petrel – a seabird with its only known breeding sites confined to the World Heritage site, which shares its name.

Plans are afoot declare war on the rats, but heavy weaponry is required—namely a fleet of helicopters capable of evenly coating an entire island in poison. Given Henderson’s remote location, that will likely mean calling in the MV Baldur, the region’s pre-eminent anti-rodent ship, which is essentially the pest control world’s version of an aircraft carrier.

Yes, there are large ships especially dedicated to large-scale rodent eradication. But given the rats’ ingenuity, it should be long before a deckhand on one of these missions is forced to utter those memorable words: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

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7 Comments so far ↓

  • ADW

    Does coating the entire island in poison kill off other life forms? They certainly are a nasty looking bunch, and, I’m assuming, very durable, and adaptable. Do their systems adapt to poisons over time? Are they related to the wire running, tree climbing, critters here in LA?

    I thought I’d seen it all with the NY rats. Nothing like sunbathing in Central Park and opening my eyes to a group of 8-10 of the nasty little fucks playing tag feet away from my head. Until, I looked up one night in my backyard here in SoCal and met a pair of beady, red eyes staring down at me.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @ADW: Yeah, there is definitely some risk of killing so-called “non-target species.” Apparently the Henderson Crake likes the bait, too. But I guess they’ve run the cost/benefit analysis, and determined that the greatest risk lies in doing nothing.

    As a child in L.A., I was traumatized by having a rat crawl up my arm while taking out the garbage one night. Worst infestations I’ve ever seen, though, were in Washington D.C. I could swear I once saw a rat king in the little park by the corner of 16th Street and Columbia Road.

  • scottstev

    @Brendan the City Paper had an interesting if stomach churning story about DC notorious rats.

  • ADW

    I’d need therapy FOR LIFE!

    DC rats rep on size alone. They’re huge!

    But, NY rodents win the swagger award. I was chilling on the phone in my apartment in Harlem one night when I spotted something moving in my closet. It was tiny little mouse. I started screaming, at which point, the little fucker stopped in his tracks and stared me down. Chill woman!

  • Capture Shadow

    I love those rat stories.
    In Ecuador one chewed through the window screen (I was on the second floor too) to get into my kitchen. I left some poison out that it must have eaten because it returned to die in the kitchen.

  • ADW

    @Capture Shadow,

    Did you roast it for dinner. I hear it taste just like chicken.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @ADW: I believe you’re thinking of Andean guinea pig (aka cuy)–which does, indeed, taste like lemony, greasy chicken.

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