Question: What is the most prolific and successful creature on this beautiful Island? Answer: The black rat – rattus rattus. And no, they are not meant to be here. They are an introduced species and they are not welcome.
Rats are baby making machines – a single female can mate up to 500 times in six hours and produce up to 2000 offspring per year.
They are omnivores – they eat everything. And their front teeth are always growing – up to 14cm per year – so hungry or not they have to chew and gnaw constantly to keep their teeth under control.
Rats are bad news for the Island’s flora and fauna, bad news for tourism, and bad news for our reputation as a World Heritage Area.
Now for the good news. The Lord Howe Island Board, with generous financial support from the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments, is planning to systematically exterminate all the rats on the Island. The mice population will be welcome collateral damage.
The Island was once a predator free zone – until the arrival of humans was inevitably followed by rats and mice in about 1930. It is time to bring the destruction caused by rats and mice to an end.
Robert’s grandmother, Minnie Dignam, used to say that people had no idea how many birds there were before the rats – ‘The sky was thick with them’ she would say. Well here is proof in the form of photographs taken in about 1912 by photographer Roy Bell.
Quite apart from the damage they are causing to the environment, no human being wants to live in the company of rats.
Don’t take our word for it. The Island of Hawaii suffers rats on a grander scale, and here is what the US Fish & Wildlife Service has to say about them.