Seabird numbers soar after 15-year RSPB conservation project to kill rats on Lundy

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Seabirds are thriving on an island in the Bristol Channel because of a 15-year project which eradicated rats from the island.

Puffins, Manx shearwater and guillemots are all seeing their populations dramatically increase because of the project by the RSPB, Natural England and the National Trust.

The RSPB said the population of seabirds on Lundy has tripled to 21,000 birds, with the Manx shearwater population growing from 297 pairs to 5,504 and puffins increasing from just 13 birds to 375.

The project, which was launched in 2002 by Natural England, the Landmark Trust, the National Trust and RSPB, aimed to eradicate the rats because they posed the biggest threat to the survival of the birds.

After four years, Lundy was declared rat free and the seabird populations have since been steadily rising.

Rodents are not native to the island; they were accidentally brought over on boats. The RSPB has said this is a problem they have to tackle on many of the islands they oversee.

Rats predate the eggs and young of seabirds, especially ground-nesting animals like puffins, as their nests are easy to plunder.

Rosie Hails, director of science and nature at the National Trust, said: “We were really concerned as previous records showed that puffin numbers on Lundy had plummeted from over 3,500 pairs in 1939 to fewer than 10 pairs in 2000.

“And although around 75% of the global population of Manx shearwaters breed on UK islands there were only 297 pairs on Lundy in 2001, way short of its potential considering its size and available habitat.”



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