Unlike laboratory mice which have a use in testing new medication, rats are considered pests for bringing destruction and diseases. One country, New Zealand, aims to be rat-free by 2050.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced on Monday a plan to completely eradicate rats from the county. Besides rats, Key includes in the list of other nuisance animals that should be obliterated possums and stoats, reports CBS.
By killing all rats in the country, the PM hopes it would boost native birds, such as the kiwi which are now threatened with extinction due to rats and other pests that dine on their eggs. Key allocated NZ$28 million (A$26.25 million) spread over four years for the programme.
He says for the programme to succeed, everyone’s cooperation – from philanthropists to indigenous Maori tribes – is needed. “This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it,” says Key.
The government would tap the expertise of the Department of Conservation which has successfully eradicated rat from some small islands in New Zealand using baits, traps and poisons. On the main islands, the department has managed some areas to make it safer for native birds.
A lot of native animals in New Zealand are mostly bird, some of which have evolved into flightless avian. Because some of the birds could not fly, the rats – brought by the arrival of humans – had few predators and eventually thrived in numbers.
However, while Key’s predator-free goal by 2050 was welcomed at council level, Stuff.co.nz says experts think it is unrealistic. Kevin Hague, conservation spokesman of the Green Party, finds the NZ$28 million allocation “a drop in the bucket of what is really needed.”
Doug Armstrong, professor of conservation biology at the Massey University, says the goal is good but doubts if it is achievable. Armstrong believes the list should include more species and go beyond possums. He explains, “Possum eradication has the greatest incentive in terms of its damaged to the agricultural industry, but eradication of possums without sustained rat control or eradication could be a huge conservation problem.”
-The Globe and Mail