Their abilities to travel, multiply, and spread disease have always made rats one of mankind’s greatest pests.
New Zealand says it’s time to wipe them out. Every last one of them.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday announced an ambitious plan to completely rid the South Pacific nation of rats and other nuisance animals, including possums and stoats, by the year 2050.
The government is hoping a rat-free countryside will give a boost to native birds, including the iconic kiwi. Many bird species are threatened with extinction because rats and other pests feast on their eggs and compete with them for food.
Speaking from a wildlife sanctuary in Wellington, Key said the goal would require the help of everyone from philanthropists to indigenous Maori tribes.
He said the government would initially contribute NZ$28m (€17.8m) over four years toward setting up a company to run the initiative, and would consider partially matching money contributed by local councils and businesses.
New Zealand’s Department of Conservation has eradicated rats from several small islands using traps, poisons, and baits. And it has also intensively managed some areas on the main islands to make them safer for native birds.
But it would require a massive escalation of those efforts to completely wipe out the pests.
Ecologist James Russell, from the University of Auckland, has written about the idea before. “I really do think it’s possible,” he said. “It will require people working in every nook and corner of the country.”
He said getting rid of the pests would make a huge difference to the health of native flora and fauna.
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