DLNR: Rat population on Lehua Island significantly lower 2 years after treatment

DLNR: Rat population on Lehua Island significantly lower 2 years after treatment
Lehua Island treatment. (Source: DLNR)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two years after the Department of Land and Natural Resources took on the challenge of eliminating rats from a small island off Kauai, the state says they’re seeing results.

In 2017, they began dropping pellets of rodenticide to kill the population of Pacific Rats on Lehua Island, a designated bird sanctuary.

As the project nears its two-year anniversary, scientists who have been monitoring conditions on the island have said the signs are promising and the rat population is “extremely low.”

"No signs of rats eating eggs or chicks have been seen since the island was last treated on Sept. 12, 2017. There have been no detections of rats by camera since December 2018, and no signs of rats in traps or tracking tunnels. The monitoring team did detect what appears to be rat fecal pellets in early-to-mid 2019 and is continuing to monitor for rodent presence,” Mele Khalsa, project partner of Island Conservation, said

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the project.

The use of rat poison came under fire months after the project started when fish and birds mysteriously showed up dead on the island.

At the time however, it was unclear if the deaths were tied to the poison used.

“We are continuing to see positive changes to the native breeding birds on Lehua. Most notably, the Bulwer’s Petrels have responded quickly to the rat eradication project. These small seabirds are easy prey for rats and the fact that they are increasing is a great sign," Dr. André Raine of the Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project said.

"We also recently discovered two nests of the native Black-crowned Night Heron ('Auku’u), which is the first ever breeding record of this species on Lehua. As has been found on similar eradication projects around the world, it is clear that if you remove the rats, the ecosystems will quickly recover,” Raine added.

The DLNR added that plants once eaten by the rats are once again thriving.

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.