Eroj Island on the north side of Majuro is the focus of a rat eradication initiative by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Commerce.
An NRC team descended on the small island earlier this month to launch a battle against invasive rats on the uninhabited island.
The work to eradicate rats on Eroj will help to protect the rare ratakensis subspecies of the Micronesian Imperial Pigeon (“mule”), which is only found in the RMI. In 2020, BirdLife International estimated that the entire population of this subspecies is now down to fewer than 150 birds.
The work to eradicate rats is using anticoagulant rodent bait.
Recent surveys by the Ministry have confirmed that the neighboring islets of Eneju, Boketoona and Boken are currently rat free, highlighting efforts by traditional owners to support inter-island biosecurity measures and prevent the spread of rats across the atoll.
International research has shown that invasive species, such as rats, have contributed to 60 percent of historical extinctions and they are now the primary driver of extinctions on islands. Invasive rats are known to reduce numbers of land crabs and drastically damage forest habitats, as well as threatening human health.
This attempted eradication effort will also help to promote climate resilience by restoring natural ecosystems and defenses, such as native forests and coral reefs, according to people involved in the program.
The work at Eroj is being carried out in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and it is being supported by the GEF 6 Regional Invasives Project under the Predator Free Pacific Program, led by the international non-profit organization, Island Conservation.
As these will be the first rat eradications ever attempted in the Marshall Islands, an important aim is to develop local capacity and learn what works for further rodent eradication work in the RMI, contributing to long-term goals for protecting biodiversity and improving livelihoods.
Iva Reimers-Roberto, NRC Secretary, is encouraging the wider community to be vigilant in efforts to prevent the spread of rats to islands such as Eroj.
“People who are visiting the islets must make sure that their gear and vessels are free of rats before they travel,” she said. “It is especially important not to have open boxes of food on boats, as this attracts rats and give them a place to hide.”