Revealed: Pristine Australian island will have tonnes of poison dropped by helicopter in a bid to exterminate a plague of 360,000 rats
- Rat poison, PestOff Rodent Bait 20R, is likely to be airdropped from next month
- The decision to airdrop rat poison has deeply divided the community
- Tourists are advised not to eat any fish on the island
- Rats have caused the extinction of at least five bird species and 13 invertebrates
A controversial plan to rid a pristine Australian island of its plague of rats has deeply divided the local community.
On Thursday a tribunal ruled that tonnes of rat poison will be airdropped onto Lord Howe Island to exterminate more than 360,000 rats.
Rat poison, PestOff Rodent Bait 20R, is likely to be dropped on the island, which sits 600km off the New South Wales coastline, from next month.
Lord Howe Island is renowned for its spectacular scenery and breeding grounds for colonies of seabirds.
About 16,000 tourists, who visit every year are advised not to eat any fish on the island after the airdrop in case the food chain become contaminated.
Some cattle will also have to be evacuated from the island and walkers will be banned from exploring the forests.
Islanders are being told to cover their roofs with tarps to stop the bait poisoning the water tanks.
Ian Hutton, a member of the Lord Howe Island Tourism Association Committee, says the rodent eradication program is not a radical plan.
‘It is a very carefully designed program based on 40 years of very successful programs – originally developed in New Zealand, and some 700 islands worldwide have been treated to remove the biggest threat to all flora and fauna on islands – introduced rodents,’ Mr Hutton said.
For the very first time tonnes of rat poison will be air dropped to rid the pristine Lord Howe Island of a rat plague
Black rats, which were introduced to Lord Howe almost 100 years ago have overrun the pristine island
Black rats, which were introduced to Lord Howe almost 100 years ago, have overrun the island in recent years.
They are blamed for the extinction of at least five bird species and 13 invertebrates on the small curved island, which sits in between Australia and New Zealand, according to the eradication plan.
There are fears the rats also pose a threat to 13 bird species, two reptiles and 51 plant species.
Mr Hutton said the plan for Lord Howe Island has been in existence since 2002.
He added NSW and federal environmental and health organisations have given the plan approval- including the NSW Chief Scientist and the Federal AVPMA.
‘International bodies have also endorsed the plan as safe, effective and the biggest conservation project ever for Lord Howe Island,’ he said.
‘We have around 30 animals and plants listed as endangered or threatened species – and rodent are the three.
‘Remove rodents and the threat is removed and those species can survive.’
Rats continue to threaten another 13 bird species, two reptiles and 51 plant species that call the lush green island home
Tourists will be banned from walking in the forests and the islanders are being told to cover their roofs with tarps to stop the bait poisoning the water tanks
Mr Hutton says the majority of the community are enthusiastic about the program and are looking forward to a rodent free island.
But many islanders are totally against this plan.
‘This whole thing will be a disaster. We might as well kiss our World Heritage listing goodbye,’ Rodney Thompson, 80, told the Daily Telegraph.
It reported that a fight broke out between the supporters and opponents at the Lord Howe Island Golf Club this week following the tribunal’s ruling.