Hawaii seabirds now safe to nest on Lehua Island after it’s declared rat-free

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — A tiny island off Kauai’s west shore has been declared free of damaging, invasive rats following a joint effort from local and federal departments.

Lehua Island is home to one of the largest and most diverse seabird colonies in the main Hawaiian Islands. At least 17 seabird species, many of which are threatened, call the island home.

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“After extensive on-island monitoring, we’re 99.99% certain there are no more rats on Lehua, which builds on the successful removal of invasive herbivorous rabbits, and secures a future for Hawaii’s wildlife and ecosystems,” said Sheri Mann, the Kauai branch manager for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).

Rabbits were eradicated from the State sanctuary for seabirds in 2006 but getting rid of the rats proved more difficult. 

The eradication of these invasive vertebrates enables the seabirds to safely nest on the steep rocky shores, and native plants to flourish once again. 

“We have collected robust data on the rat activity on Lehua since the eradication operation in 2017. With the success of the mop-up effort, rats have not been detected on the island for over two years. April 2021 marks the one year anniversary since all rat-control treatments were removed from the island, adding to the data that allows us to declare Lehua rat-free,” explained Dr. Patty Baiao of Island Conservation.

Restoring some of the fourteen native plants, eleven of which are found only in Hawai‘i, is the next step in the project.

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