Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean was the scene of a crucial naval battle in the second world war. It is now set for a very different sort of conflict – a bombing campaign to rid the area of mice، as the Guardian said.
The US government is moving ahead with a plan to strafe Midway with poison aimed at eradicating mice that are on a deadly rampage through one of the world’s most important sites for seabirds.
The three low-lying islands، fringing coral reefs and lagoons that make up the Midway Atoll refuge، located about 1،200 miles north-west of Honolulu، cover an area only slightly larger than New York City’s Central Park but are a crucial nesting area for around 3 million birds، including albatrosses and terns.
Over 70% of the world’s Laysan albatross are found on Midway including Wisdom، a 68-year-old creature believed to be the world’s oldest known wild bird. This year Wisdom hatched her 37th chick. But in 2015 it became clear this Pacific idyll was under threat after scientists and volunteers discovered nesting birds with open wounds on their heads، necks and backs. Mice inadvertently introduced to Midway are responsible for the bites، with their victims essentially eaten alive. Dozens of seabirds have died or abandoned their nests as a result of the attacks.
“We’ve seen gruesome attacks on adult birds that are sitting on nests، causing big wounds that get infected،” said Patty Baiao، US program manager with Island Conservation، an environment group working on the project. “Albatross are long-lived and monogamous birds، so once you take a few adults out of the population you can have a significant impact.
“The mice are having an impact at an ecosystem level and it was clear something needed to be done.” After considering various options the US Fish and Wildlife Service، which is responsible for the conservation of Midway، opted to bombard the atoll with a rodenticide called Brodifacoum with the aim of wiping out the mice. The poison will be distributed via crews in helicopters.
The plan has been approved due to the understanding that the mice، but not the birds، will be attracted to the bait. The endangered Laysan ducks، which are present at Midway year-round، will be relocated to a mouse-free island for the duration of the project، which is due to start next year.
A further year will be required to determine if the assault on the mice has proved successful، thereby echoing the eradication of rodents on several other islands that have suffered wildlife declines.
“This approach uses a tool we know works with proved effects،” said Baiao. “Given the urgency we have، it’s the only realistic option.”