AUSTRALIA: Rats on asylum-seeker boat threaten Cocos Island’s indigenous population

No, No…not the Muslim rats on board, the real rats. National Park authorities fear asylum-seekers have brought rats to the island home of one of Australia’s most endangered bird species on a remote atoll of the Cocos Islands.

The Australian  (H/T Shirl in Oz) They fear rats will eat the eggs and kill the chicks of the world’s last-remaining population of Cocos buff-banded rails, once found across the islands’ 27 atolls, but now thought to number as few as 850 and found only on North Keeling Island. (Kind of like how the Muslims want to kill off the last remaining Christians in any Muslim country in the world, like Egypt or Lebanon, where once, the majorities were Christian)

Parks Australia, part of the federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, confirmed yesterday that it had been told an asylum boat detected at North Keeling Island on June 10 was carrying rats.

The Australian has been told the information was passed to Parks Australia by border protection officials after initial interviews with the 32 Sri Lankans found camping on the island. Parks Australia is waiting for rough seas to ease so it can send a team of rangers to set up 20 bait stations, 10 cameras and ink-tracking cards to monitor rat footprints on the northern-most atoll of the Cocos Islands.

The buff-banded rail, one of the endangered birds on the Cocos Islands under threat from rats.

Parks Australia says “rats are our biggest concern”. The Cocos buff-banded rail, also known as the forest chicken, is classified as endangered. The island is also a place where green sea turtles lay their eggs.

Yesterday, researcher Don Driscoll, a fellow of the Australian National University’s Fenner School of Environment and Society, said the introduction of rats to North Keeling would be a disaster for the Cocos buff-banded rail, other birds and for other species such as the mourning gecko.

Dr Driscoll said rats and cats had pushed five species to the brink on Australia’s other Indian Ocean territory, Christmas Island. “I would be very, very worried about the effect of rats on this island,” he said.

Pulu Keeling National Park chief ranger Ismail MacRae will lead the team that sets the traps. “We’ve heard there were rats on board, so as soon as the seas subside and we can get out to the atoll well set rat traps and bait stations. “The boat will be burned to minimise the risk of pests such as borers infecting the island’s forests,” he said.

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