Update: 27 June 2011

by Sally Esposito on June 28, 2011

By: Susan White, Incident Commander

The second full application of bait was completed on June 26th – all aerial and hand broadcast applications, as well as all canopy baiting of palms, has been completed! The team ended on a wonderfully positive note, having completed the mission successfully, despite challenges and long days.

An early anecdotal observation points out a possible effect of a rat-free Palmyra: the on-site veterinarian has been collecting egg shell fragments from the sooty tern colony since her arrival because they can be used to help entice captured shorebirds to eat. Recently, she noticed a decrease in these egg shell fragments. It is possible that this is due to reduced rat predation on sooty tern eggs. If true, there could be an increase in the sooty tern chicks this year.

All the animals being held in temporary captivity continue to do well. One gecko escaped from a broken cage on June 11; the remaining 29 are in good health. Nine bristle-thighed curlews continue to eat on their own in the aviary. Feeding cycles are going to increase to twice a day, to keep fresh food available and encourage weight gain or maintenance. A few of the curlews are being held in individual boxes to reduce their activity and maintain their weight. The shorebird team has been spending 16+ hours a day caring for the shorebirds in the aviary and in the field.

The atoll’s domestic animals are well. The two cats, Tigger and Duchess, are enjoying their stay in the cabin (and on the beds) so much that they have no interest in leaving it. Dadu, the dog, is healthy for his age and continues to receive excellent care and attention from the on-site veterinarian and from all staff on the atoll.

The operations team is wrapping up and demobilizing for project completion. Some team members will return home, and others will continue on with the ship, the Research Vessel Aquila, to other islands with similar projects in the Pacific – specifically, to restore Enderbury and Birnie Islands (in Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands) in a project led by the Phoenix Islands Protected Area and then to Henderson Island (in the United Kingdom’s Pitcairn Islands Overseas Territory) in a project led by the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSBP).

A crew member heading out for palm canopy baiting. Photo USFWS/S.White

Bait in a palm canopy has been eaten by rats. Photo: USFWS/S.White

A hand broadcasting team heading out to work on a wet afternoon. (The bait is formulated to last in wet conditions.). Photo: USFWS/S.White

Team members applying bait to old structures from WWII. Photo: Island Conservation/G. Howald

Team members at work in drier conditions. Photos: USFWS/S. White

Team members conducting final palm canopy baiting grin for the camera despite being covered with mud after slogging through muck to reach the trees. Photo: USFWS/S.White

A beautiful starry night in Palmyra. Photo: Island Conservation/E.Oberg

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