Above Picture: Reclaiming South Georgia. The Defeat of Furry Invaders on a sub-Antarctic Island, by Tony Martin and Team Rat; photograph of book cover by Keith Springer
Tony Martin’s book (authored along with “Team Rat”) tells the stirring story of ridding sub-Antarctic South Georgia in the South Atlantic of introduced rodents by aerial bombardment of a thousand square kilometres with 12 500 bags of rodenticide-treated cereal bait from three vintage helicopters. It relates, in word and image, the baiting work that took place on the island in three phases in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The book was produced to help raise funds for the final and crucial phase of the project that conducted the essential monitoring in 2017 that confirmed that the island’s invasive Norway Rats Rattus norvegicus and House Mice Mus musculus were finally gone. Tony’s book has a Foreword by HRH The Princess Royal, who has been a great supporter of the eradication project as its patron.
Anthony (Tony) Martin was Director of the South Georgia Heritage Trust’s Habitat Restoration Project, and is Professor of Animal Conservation at the Centre for Remote Environments, University of Dundee in Scotland. The South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) seeks to undertake projects that will conserve and protect the island’s important natural habitats, such as restoring large areas that threatened species of birds were unable to use to breed because of the previous presence of rats introduced some 150 years ago.
The Author’s Preface says the book “is a story of highs and lows, excitement and frustration, fear and astonishment, and lots of plain hard graft.” It also shows how such a big island, far larger than any previously treated, could be successfully baited in phases due to glaciers impassable to rats that divided the island into zones. Glaciers, retreating due to climate change, were putting rat-free areas at risk, so it was essential that the eradication was not delayed.
I much enjoyed reading Tony’s book – and admiring the stunning scenery it depicts. The achievement it portrays is a welcome boost to plans to eradicate rodents at other infested islands in the Southern Ocean, notably South Africa’s Marion that is overrun with predatory House Mice, that have taken to killing albatross and petrel chicks and adults. The passion of Team Rat that comes across in the book, as well as its professionalism and ultimate success, is an important lesson for the Mouse-Free Marion (MFM) Project as it works towards mouse eradication. Keith Springer, MFM Operations Manager, is a veteran of Team Rat, so it seems certain that the lessons he learnt on South Georgia will be directly transferred to Marion Island. Martin has lent his support to the MFM Project, writing “As the Leader of ‘Team Rat’ that successfully eradicated Norway Rats and House Mice on South Georgia over five seasons last decade, I am encouraged by a similar effort being planned by South Africa to eradicate the invasive mice of Marion Island. I am convinced that within a year of success signs of recovery will be as apparent as they have been on South Georgia”.
Professor Martin has previously published a book on albatrosses; click here for my review.
With thanks to Tony Martin.
Martin, T. with photographs by members of Team Rat. Undated . Reclaiming South Georgia. The Defeat of Furry Invaders on a Sub-Antarctic Island. [Dundee]: South Georgia Heritage Trust. 144 pp. ISBN 978-0-9564546-3-8. Hardcover, profusely illustrated in colour. UK£ 25.00.
John Cooper, News Correspondent, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 26 July 2022