Norwegian millions absent on South Atlantic Ocean rodent removal / News / The Foreigner

Norwegian millions absent on South Atlantic Ocean rodent removal. An ambitious multi-national move to reduce the rat population on the island of South Georgia has yielded results despite no Norwegian government funding. The island is now a British Overseas territory. Britain claimed sovereignty over it in 1775, the same year Royal Navy Captain James Cook circumnavigated the island. Britain annexed both South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) in 1908. At the same time, South Georgia also has strong links with Norway following some 60 years of whaling.

norwaywhaling, norwaysealing, southgeorgiarats



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Norwegian millions absent on South Atlantic Ocean rodent removal

Published on Thursday, 25th July, 2013 at 15:01 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson and Lyndsey Smith      .
Last Updated on 26th July 2013 at 12:36.

An ambitious multi-national move to reduce the rat population on the island of South Georgia has yielded results despite no Norwegian government funding.

Helicopter dropping bait
Helicopter dropping bait
Photo: Roland Gockel/SGHT


The island is now a British Overseas territory. Britain claimed sovereignty over it in 1775, the same year Royal Navy Captain James Cook circumnavigated the island. Britain annexed both South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) in 1908.

At the same time, South Georgia also has strong links with Norway following some 60 years of whaling.

Norwegian Antarctic explorer Carl Anton Larsen (1865-1924) set up both the first land-based whaling station and permanent habitation at Gryteviken in 1904 – there is a heritage museum at Gryteviken, and the centenary of the opening of the Norwegian Whalers’ Church there will be celebrated in December this year.

Companies from Tønsberg, Sandefjord and Larvik also established their own onshore whaling stations on South Georgia.

This year’s huge operation mounted by the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) was to further exterminate the island’s population of introduced Norway brown rat following last year’s successful first-stage eradication on one section of the island.

Handbaiting whaling station
Handbaiting whaling station
Roland Gockel/SGHT
These rats have been allowed to reproduce on South Georgia for many years living off young birds and eggs, something which has contributed to many species being classified as endangered.

At an estimated cost of up to NOK 70 million (about USD 11.8 million/EUR 8.95 million/GBP 7.72 million), three helicopters were used to distribute some 200 tons of bait pellets across 580 square kilometres of the island (some 70 per cent of the infested area).

This latest ‘Team Rat’ operation involved four pilots, 600 flying hours, and four pilots. Handbaiting around the four huge abandoned whaling stations at Husvik, Stromness, Leith and Prince Olav took place too.

Also comprising the team were two engineers, three chefs, two doctors, and field staff with expertise ranging from GPS and data management, to meteorology, polar logistics and an intimate knowledge of South Georgia and its wildlife. It was judged successful.

The main evaluation for the multi-year project will be conducted in 2014. Team Rat hopes to be able to collect the GBP 2 million needed to spread poison across the 300 square kilometres that remain for 2015.

“Once all of the rats and mice are removed from South Georgia, scientists estimate a 100 million increase in the island's bird population,” SGHT staff writes.

Clearing the helicopters of snow
Clearing the helicopters of snow
Roland Gockel/SGHT
No money has been forthcoming from Norway for the 2013 part of the rat eradication operation, though, an SGHT press spokesperson confirmed to The Foreigner.

This is despite the fact that Ministry of the Environment officials say they are aware of the problems Norwegian whaling (and sealing) have caused over time, NRK reported.

“Norway is participating in several projects on the island. Among other things, we are working to eradicate the reindeer, which were taken along as provisions for whalers. We also participated in clean-up work after the whaling activity,” Deputy Environment Minister Henriette Westhrin told the broadcaster.

“This [ridding the island of South Georgia of vermin] is the joint responsibility, but mainly a British one since it is a British area. We have engaged in individual projects, meaning there are other projects that have been prioritised,” she added.

A Ministry of the Environment press spokesperson elaborated to The Foreigner that "South Georgia is not within the geographical area of the Antarctic Treaty. The Norwegian authorities therefore did not see it as appropriate to support this project economically."

King penguins of South Georgia Island
King penguins of South Georgia Island
Tony Martin/SGHT
South Georgia, a long, narrow, mountainous and glaciated island, is located 2,150 kilometres (just under 1,336 miles) away from Tierra del Fuego, the tip of South America, and 1,390 kilometres (almost 864 miles) east of the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas). The Falklands also have inhabitants of Norwegian descent amongst them.

Earlier this month, sailors from the British Royal Navy’s HMS Argyll recreated the icy journey across South Georgia Island undertaken by Irish polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton as part of the 1914-17 Imperial Trans-Antactic Expedition – also known as the Endurance Expedition.




Published on Thursday, 25th July, 2013 at 15:01 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson and Lyndsey Smith      .
Last updated on 26th July 2013 at 12:36.

This post has the following tags: norwaywhaling, norwaysealing, southgeorgiarats.





  
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