A case study of ecosystem management in the tiny island nation of Kalau demonstrates severe negative effects related to invasive species. Most notably, the introduction of new invasive species to predate on existing invasive species has been proven to be an ineffective and destructive way of dealing with the issue. Scientists recommend alternative methods of achieving ecosystem stabilization.
Rats as Invasive Species
In 1830, ships commanded by Captain James Cook landed at the Kalau island chains. During their excursions, the sailors inadvertently introduced ship rats to the island. In the following decades, the rats wreaked havoc upon the ecosystem of the island. The rats would consume the eggs of the local tropical birds, which devastated their population. This had cascading effects on the ecosystem, as many of the birds helped spread the seeds of the local plants.
In response to this, the new government developed multiple plans to reduce the rat population. First, the government tried baiting the rats with poisoned cheese. However, the rats were lactose intolerant. Because of this, they avoided cheese to prevent gastrointestinal distress. Following this, they attempted to reduce the spread of rats through traps. However, the crafty rats were able to juke the traps before getting hit. Finally, they created Wile E. Coyote style contraptions to capture rats. However, many of the rats were familiar with Acme Corporation products and avoided getting captured.
Finally, out of desperation, the government decided to fight fire with fire. Officials hatched a plan to bring in a predator species to take out the rats. This involved a shipment of 100 snakes, who quickly slithered into the jungle in search of prey. The snakes did manage to kill many of the rats. However, they found other prey as well, to include the indigenous kangaroo mice. The snakes also crowded out other local reptile species, causing further disruption to the ecosystem.
Shocked and dismayed at this unintended-side effect, the government brought in a cadre of 40 mongoose to hunt the snakes. The mongoose, however, had a ravenous appetite, and started to eat many of the local insects and lizards, in addition to the invasive snakes.
To fight this, the ecology department genetically resurrected the dangerous Haast’s Eagle. They hoped this new species would help pick off the mongoose. This, however, also caused issues, as the Haast’s eagles had a habit of attacking people as well. Many of the locals and tourists complained of this new unwelcome nuisiance, and demanded answers.
Fearing the worst, the government had to brainstorm ways to get rid of the eagles. This included bringing in a rival eagle species, playing loud music in the jungle, irritating them with drones, and more. Ultimately, the government decided the best course of action would be to reintroduce ship rats to eat the eggs of the Haast eagles.
This case study demonstrates that repeatedly introducing more and more invasive species is an ineffective way of solving an invasive species problem. Scientists determined this by observing the effects of each new introduction of invasive species to the island. The end result is an increase of invasive species.
Future Research on Invasive Species
Policy makers are considering multiple other ways of tackling the problem at hand. One is selling hunting permits to local citizens to go after the ship rats. However, local hunting organizations have raised doubts, saying people may not consider rat-hunting “cool” enough to pursue. Another involves recognizing the value of the invasive species, and becoming allies with them. Scientists are asking the public to provide further recommendations.
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