Fast and efficient, drones are a versatile new tool against invasive species
The Galapagos Islands are famous for their exotic wildlife, which in most cases is not nearly as afraid of humans as it should be. Humans have done some seriously horrible things to the animals living there, like packing thousands of giant tortoises upside down on ships because they would stay alive without food or water for months and could then be eaten. People traveling to and living in the Galapagos have caused other serious problems to the fragile ecosystem: In addition to devastating oil spills, humans have introduced numerous invasive species to the islands. In particular, goats, which were brought on purpose, and rats, which were brought accidentally, have been catastrophic for endemic animal populations.
For decades, the Galapagos National Park Directorate (DPNG) has been working to remove invasive species island by island, including tens of thousands of feral goats, pigs, and donkeys. But rats are an enormous problem as well, especially on the smaller islands. In early 2018, the island of North Seymour suffered a black and brown rat infestation, which is a serious problem on a little smidge of land 1.9 square kilometers in area that is home to thousands of birds that lay their eggs directly on the ground.
Now the DPNG, in cooperation with Island Conservation, is trying something new to deal with the rats: Sending drones flying over the island to drop rat poison as quickly (and cheaply) as possible.
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