Saving near-extinct birds by eradicating rats on South Georgia

As an isolated island in the South Atlantic bordering Antarctica, South Georgia has one of the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth with many rare birds and mammals, some of which canonly be found here. Human activity on the island in the early twentieth century brought in an increase of rodents which threatened to permanently damage the biodiversity and equilibrium of the natural habitats on the island.

The main target of the funding from the Hurtigruten Foundation was to helpe radicate rats and mice from the island in order to restore the rare bird populationon South Georgia. As the ever-growing rodent population continued to attack the birds, several species, unique to this island, were on the verge of extinction. Today the project has proven successful, even celebrated as the “biggest rat eradication programme ever undertaken” by BBC News.

The Hurtigruten Foundation’s support has helped to ensure that the native species, such as the South Georgia Pipit and Pintail, thrive again in their ancestral nesting sites. Now, the song of the South Georgia Pipit can be heard everywhere on South Georgia and the Pintail ducklings are now seen everywhere. Over the coming years and decades, many other birds like the Wilson’s Storm Petrel and the Antarctic Prionwill recover through the absence of rats. The native bird population of South Georgia could increase by as much as 100 million thanks to the support of organisations like the Hurtigruten Foundation, says Chief Executive of The South Georgia Heritage Trust, Alison Neil.

The collaboration between Hurtigruten and The South Georgia Heritage Trust spans from individual and corporate donations, through in-kind help such as bringing personnel and equipment to South Georgia, by holding auctions to raise funds for the charity and of course, through the Hurtigruten Foundation. The South Georgia Heritage Trust received funding in 2016, 2018 and 2019, in total 315,587 Norwegian Krone, distributed in the three years from the Hurtigruten Foundation. 

Where can I learn more?

As a guest at Hurtigruten Expeditions you can explore South Georgia on our expedition cruises with MS Fram. You can also read more about the Trust’s work and upcoming projects on their webpage.

About The South Georgia Heritage Trust

It is a charity based in Dundee, Scotland, dedicated to conserving the natural and historical heritage of the island of South Georgia. The team collaborates with exploration travel companies, like Hurtigruten Expeditions, giving their guests tours of Grytviken and telling them about their conservation work.