Saving nearly extinct birds by eradicating rats on South Georgia

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 can only be found here. Human activity in the early 20th century likely introduced rodents to the island, which threatened to permanently damage the biodiversity and equilibrium of the island’s natural habitats.

The main goal of the Hurtigruten Foundation’s funding was to help eradicate rats and mice from the island in order to restore the rare bird populations of South Georgia. The ever-growing rodent population was even attacking the birds, leaving several species that were unique to this island on the verge of extinction. The project has been proven successful. BBC News even celebrated it as the “biggest rat eradication program ever undertaken”.

The Hurtigruten Foundation’s support has helped to ensure that native bird species like the South Georgia Pipit and South Georgia Pintail can thrive here once again. The song of the South Georgia Pipit can now be heard throughout South Georgia, and even the South Georgia Pintail’s ducklings can be seen around the island. Over the coming years and decades, the absence of rats will help many other birds, like the Wilson’s Storm Petrel and the Antarctic Prion, to recover. The native bird population of South Georgia could increase by as much as 100 million, thanks to the support of organizations like the Hurtigruten Foundation, says Alison Neil, Chief Executive of the South Georgia Heritage Trust.

The collaboration between Hurtigruten and the South Georgia Heritage Trust includes individual and corporate donations, along with in-kind help (such as bringing personnel and equipment to South Georgia), holding charity fundraising auctions and, of course, support through the Hurtigruten Foundation. The Hurtigruten Foundation has donated a total of NOK 315,587 to the South Georgia Heritage Trust throughout 2016, 2018, and 2019.

How can I learn more?

As a Hurtigruten guest, you can explore South Georgia on our expedition cruises to Antarctica aboard MS Fram. You can also read more about the South Georgia Heritage Trust’s work and their upcoming projects on its webpage.

About the South Georgia Heritage Trust

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