Rats on Rum should get SatNav rather than GPS
While I wouldn’t normally advocate the extinction of any species, I do sometimes wonder about rats, which (if wild) appear to have no real purpose other than to harbour (and spread) various diseases (and other problems) which are detrimental to the human race. They don’t seem to offer any benefits to fauna around them either
I found rather ironic to read that one rat was to fitted with a GPS collar, designed to allow it to be tracked, now that rats have arrived on the Isle of Rum, probably after they managed to get there by jumping onto visiting boats.
Brown rats are recent colonists to the island and probably arrived on boats.
As on all offshore islands where rats have jumped ship, they have an adverse effect on native species.
This study is examining the significance of the Rum rats on the globally important Rum shearwater population.
Under the work one pioneering rodent has been fitted with a rat global positioning system (GPS) to track its movements over the coming weeks.
It is hoped results will be in by the end of February.
Lesley Watt, the SNH Rum reserve officer, said understanding rat behaviour was vital to assess their likely impacts on Manx shearwaters and other species.
She added: “Rats are thought to be responsible for numerous global seabird population declines through predation on eggs, chicks and adult birds, though historically they have not been thought to have an impact on the Rum Cuillin colony.
“But we are concerned that rat numbers and predation may increase in the future. So we need to know more about the ecology of the rats to inform our future management policy for this globally import Manx shearwater breeding site.
“We are all intrigued about what we’ll find out when our roaming rat data is analysed and we view the results.”
The rat-related work is part of a three-year Magnus Magnusson PhD studentship, funded by SNH and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).
The study is important, as the effect of foreign species, be they flora or fauna, can often be surprising and destructive if unchecked.
Given the theme of this story, when I saw the headline I formed a mental image of the rat population of Rum being provided with SatNav, in the hope that they would behave in the same way as some mindless zombie drives seem to when presented with the attractive display and seductive female voice giving turn-by-turn navigation instructions.
Picture the scene, as the Head Rat is carefully guided off the nearest cliff by his SatNav (after asking for directions to the nearest rat party) – and the rest of the follow his lead.
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