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TIS Cook Islands
learning how to use various weather instruments such as this rain gauge Bird recorded deployed on cliff facing edge at the top of lake Tiriara

Project office Alanna Smith was in Mangaia late March (2018) carrying out a couple of school training programmes and conducting the first ever acoustic sea bird surveying project.
Mangaia School students were able to receive the SRICC funded learning by doing weather stations programme where students were introduced to a range of different weather instruments, and were taught what each instrument measures, how to correctly read each instrument, how to record the data and then how to interpret collected data. The objective of this project is so that school students can become more aware of those changes occurring in their micro climate and potentially be able to forecast the likes of approaching depressions with the given instruments.

A refresher course was also conducted on the schools worm farm and compost bin, to remind the students about what organic waste can be disposed into each unit and what the benefits are of composting. Mangaia school has had their worm farm and compost bin for 2 years now, which TIS installed thanks to funding from the GEF Small Grants programme.

An acoustic bird survey was also carried out with the help of TIS member Jason Tuara. The survey targets sea birds such as petrels and shearwaters. In the past Black winged petrels, wedged tailed shearwaters and tropical sharewaters have been recorded on Mangaia. The aim of this project is to obtain updated information and identify whether these prior species found on Mangaia are still present today or potentially new species maybe present. The recorder was deployed on the top of the cliff facing edge at lake Tiriara and has been set to record ambient noise 4 hours a day in the late evenings when petrels and shearwaters are likely to be active. The recorder will be picked up in a months time for data analysis

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Rattus rattus (Ship Rat) Photo: Gerald McCormack An example of a rat-specific bait station, from India

Are you having problems with rats? Rats can be very annoying. They can destroy your garden and crops, spread and carry a whole lot of diseases and just the presence of these pests in your household could make your nice comfortable home feel very unpleasant to live in. Rats have been effectively controlled in the Takitumu Conservation Area for nearly 30 years, using rat poison. However, if you are thinking of trying to control the rats in your location using poison, there are a few precautions that you need to take.
Te Ipukarea Society has some experience with rat bait, mainly through our involvement in the 2013 rat eradication project on Suwarrow. This experience has led us to use “Island Bait” rat poison. This is manufactured by Bell Laboratories Inc. in the USA. Bell Laboratories Inc. is a world leader in rodent control technology. The “Island Bait” rat poison is specially designed to be effective and suitable for tropical island climate weather, making an ideal solution for us here in the islands. This particular bait type comprises a base matrix of cereal grains which are bound together with sugars and synthetic compounds that make it attractive and highly palatable to rats. And while the bait should be applied in situations that it remains dry, the matrix is resistant to some moisture, but will degrade following prolonged exposure.
The poison affects the ‘vitamin K’ cycle in mammals and results in haemorrhage (internal bleeding) of internal organs. Not all animals are equally susceptible i.e. rats are highly sensitive to it whereas we humans are not (it is still recommended to reduce exposure through use of gloves).
In a domestic environment rat bait should be contained (and not scattered loosley on the ground) so that dogs, chickens, stock and children etc. cannot access it. The best way to use this bait is by placing it inside bait stations, that the rats can get in, but larger animals cannot squeeze in. This can be achieved by placing the bait within a piece of drain pipe (ideally with the size of which only rats can enter), or an ice cream container with a cut out tunnel. Ensure the bait station is secured in an area that is away from non targeted species, and where rats are active. Relatively small amounts of bait should be dispensed into a bait station at a time (no more than a cup or 250gms).
Sensitivity of animals to the bait differs between taxonomic groups and species, for example, rats are more sensitive than mice, some birds are more sensitive than others. “Island Bait” will be effective against all three species of rats we have here in the Cook Islands – The Polynesian Rat (Rattus exulans), Ship Rat or Black Rat (Rattus rattus), and the largest of the three, the Norwegian Rat or Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus). The Bell Lab “Island Bait” rat poison will be used to eradicate the remaining population of polynesian rats on Suwarrow Island in May this year.
Predators like cats, chickens and dog could get secondary poisoning by consuming a contaminated rat. However, it is not serious and can be treated with vitamin K.
A few precautions to be followed if you are using rat poison are:
• Wear protective equipment such as gloves when you handle the bait. Brodifacoum is a slight skin irritant and a mild eye irritant.
• Small children should be closely supervised while bait is still present on the ground.
• Land crabs and chickens active in the area should not be eaten for a minimum of six months after bait is applied.
• Pigs should be removed from the area so that they do not have access to bait and should not be let loose or returned to the area for at least six months after bait application.
• If young children or domestic animals do somehow get poisoned by rat bait, Vitamin K is an effective antidote.
If you have any questions and inquiries or you are interested in using rat poison, come and see us at the Te Ipukarea Society office down in Tupapa next to Bamboo Jacks for some more advice. We do have limited quantities of Bell Lab “Island Bait” rat poison for sale, This is not to create profit but will be used to purchase a new round of bait to use for our upcoming work on Suwarrow this year, as there is a small chance that by May some of the bait will begin losing its effectiveness, as our current stock was meant to be used on Suwarrow in September 2017.

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