Searching for invasive species on Nikumaroro

Today, after a spectacular series of dives, PIPA director Tukabu Teroroko, Tuake Tema, Rob Barrel, Alan Dynner, Kate Madin, Larry Madin, Brian Skerry, Jeff Wildermuth and I landed on Nikumaroro to check for the presence of invasive species.

Invasive species are organisms that do not belong there and were brought by humans. Nikumaroro is uninhabited today, but over the centuries there had been periodic settlements. We were checking for rats, cats, rabbits, and other organisms that can harm the native animals and plants. Kiribati has successfully worked hard on Phoenix and McKean Islands to eradicate rats and rabbits. But Tukabu and I wanted to check for rats here on Nikumaroro. He knew there were cats on this island, but rats are more devastating to the hundreds of thousands of birds that call Nikumaroro home, and if he found strong evidence, he would plan an eradication.

Photo taken during the 2002 expedition (Photo: Greg Stone)

We explored a small portion of the island, found old village structures, including a sunken room with coral walls that Tukabu said was perhaps an ancient marea, a place of worsiop. Tukabu looked at the fallen coconut fruits and reasoned that rats might not be too bad here, as they were not abundant bite marks on the coconut. Part of the long-term management plan for PIPA is to eradicate invasive species on all the islands to protect the amazing bird life on these islands; the Phoenix Islands are considered among the most important seabird nesting sites in the Pacific.

-Greg Stone, PIPA expedition leader

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