Major rat infestation to close Australian islands

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Major rat infestation to close Australian islands
Major rat infestation to close Australian islands

Canberra : Nearly one dozen islands in Australia's far north will be closed to the public from Monday as authorities attempt to deal with a major rat infestation.

The Queensland State Parks and Wildlife Service will now begin a three-week aerial baiting programme to control the pests on the Great Barrier Reef's world heritage listed Frankland and Northern Barnard Islands, where black rats are threatening native seabirds by damaging nests and eating hatchlings, reports Xinhua news agency.

"Obviously these islands play a very important part in seabird and migratory shorebird habitat," Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Warwick Armstrong told local media.

"We also have a lot of visitors to camp grounds, so there's a risk of disease that's carried by these pest rats."

Although it remains unclear how the rats came to the islands, it is believed the rodents might have made it there by sneaking off larger boats in the area or were washed toward the islands during floods.

It is not the first time that authorities have been forced to act on a rat infestation on the islands.

Rangers conducted a control programme on the South Barnard Islands back in 2000, which saw the number of seabirds increase dramatically after its completion.