back to article Galapagos islands bombed with 22 tonnes of Blue Death Cornflakes

Twenty-two tonnes of cereal laced with pesticide have been dropped on the Galapagos Islands over the past week to get rid of a rat menace that has seen 10 rats pack every square meter on the island of Pinzón. In the biggest raticide in South American history, the Ecuadorian government, working with conservation groups, has …

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  1. FartingHippo
    Black Helicopters

    Madness I tell you

    Sounds like the perfect way to breed a poison-tolerant rat.

    1. handle

      Re: Madness I tell you

      Not if you get them all. Adaptation generally arises from low-level exposure, where differences in the gene pool allow some individuals to tolerate the poison better and thus have a competitive advantage over the others. If you give them all a dose large enough that genetic variations within the species cannot allow any to survive, then you eradicate the infestation. This is one reason why it is so important that you finish a course of antibiotics you have been given, even if you're feeling better - it ought to ensure that the level in your body remains high enough for long enough that bacteria slightly more able to cope than others don't get a competitive advantage and start to predominate.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Madness I tell you

        You could very easily breed a rat that doesn't eat the stuff because they don't like the taste/colour

        1. handle

          Re: Madness I tell you

          You possibly could with some difficulty (not least being the need to evolve normal tri-chromatic colour vision in a rat). But as you have already solved your problem by carpet-bombing an island with delicious blue poisonous bait, I'm not sure what point you're trying to make.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Madness I tell you

            The previous poster said you wouldn't evolve a rat population that was immune to the poison because no rat could eat any amount and survive.

            But you could effectively evolve a rat population that was "immune" if there was a subset of rats that refused to eat the poison (for whatever reason) and passed that behaviour onto their offspring.

            There are lots of examples of indirect/societal evolution like this in the animal world. It's often missed on a simple biological model

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Headmaster

          Re: YAOC

          Yep. AFAIK that's one of the first survival instincts (or random sampling effects) to kick in. The rats that don't like the colour/smell/taste survive. Now you have a set of rats "programed" to avoid the poison.

    2. Charles Manning
      FAIL

      Bloody armchair experts

      To the untrained this might sound like a brilliant way to breed resistant rats, but the people involved likely took their time working out how to do this properly.

      New Zealand Dept of Conservation has managed to completely eradicate rats and other vermin from various islands. They have also conducted many pest reduction exercises on other islands. I the early days these were just "give it a go" exercises that often failed but more recently they have been exercises specifically tailored to build up a knowledge on how to use statistics etc to plan these exterminations.

      The NZ DoC consults to various countries on how to conduct these exterminations and I expect their knowledge has been tapped here too.

      Doubt though they will be asking for advice from random reg comentards.

    3. elderlybloke
      Facepalm

      Re: Madness I tell you

      FartingHippo

      100% kill = no survivors = no poison tolerant rats.

  2. proto-robbie
    Pirate

    Sounds like a great idea.

    Not.

    You'd think we could stop ourselves after buggering the place up the first time, and not keep doing it.

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons
      Pint

      Re: Sounds like a great idea.

      On the flip side, as we've already inflicted ourselves on this poor place in the traditional human style, perhaps it's a great place to try these ideas, than, say, the Brazilian rainforests.

      Of course, we could have just gone down the boozer instead. It is nearly beer'o'clock.

  3. Real Ale is Best
    IT Angle

    Think of the smell!

    How stinky are several tens of thousand dead rats going to get?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Think of the smell!

      And will anyone eat the dead mammals?

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Think of the smell!

      Perhaps not as stinky as all the guano.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Decimated

    "They have decimated 100% of tortoise hatchlings for the past 100 years"

    So they killed 1 in 10 or 100%? Make your mind up!

    1. Miek
      Linux

      Re: Decimated

      Maybe the word they work groping for was 'annihilated' as in 'annihilated 100% of Tortoise hatchlings'

      1. perlcat
        Headmaster

        Re: Decimated

        Yes, every time I hear someone use the term "decimate" as opposed to "annihilate", I want to beat someone. Don't get me wrong. A decimation of humans in the original sense is horrible. Decimating animals that will (literally) "breed like rats" is a waste of time IMO.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Decimated

          From the Oxford dictionary:

          verb

          [with object]

          1kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of: the inhabitants of the country had been decimated

          drastically reduce the strength or effectiveness of (something): public transport has been decimated

          2 historical kill one in every ten of (a group of people, originally a mutinous Roman legion) as a punishment for the whole group: the man who is to determine whether it be necessary to decimate a large body of mutineers

          Historically, the meaning of the word decimate is ‘kill one in every ten of (a group of people)’. This sense has been more or less totally superseded by the later, more general sense ‘kill, destroy, or remove a large proportion of’, as in the virus has decimated the population. Some traditionalists argue that this is incorrect, but it is clear that it is now part of standard English.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Headmaster

            Re: Decimated

            > but it is clear that it is now part of standard English.

            What's clear is that a lot of people don't really know what words mean.

            This is why people use "incredible", "fantastic", "unbelievable", "brilliant", "awesome" and a host of other words to mean "very good". Those words mean very different and interesting things.

            Honestly, the real problem is the unimaginative use of adjectives by people these days, and the general substitution of the word "like" for breathing.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Decimated

              I often use the words "incredible" and "fantastic". It avoids all the unpleasantness associated with telling somebody I think they are lying.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Decimated

              Incredible and unbelievable are synonyms even if you use their archaic meanings. Brilliant and awesome still retain their alternate meanings even in modern English.

              Decimation meaning the killing of one in ten of a group is archaic, there's no way around that.

              Words change. It may very well be because the general public does not understand their original meanings. This is not a new phenomenon though, people in the middle ages were busy misusing Latin, the ancient Romans were messing around with the meaning of Greek words.

              It's a really bizarre idea that you can point out a specific period of history and say that is when a word was defined and it's meaning should never change. Especially when you're using so many words that no longer retain their original meaning without even realising it.

              1. Martin Budden
                Go

                Re: Decimated

                funny

            3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Decimated

              and the general substitution of the word "like" for breathing."

              Oh, if only....

              1. handle

                Re: Decimated

                Meanings change. Some day I'll give up getting annoyed when people say they have been electrocuted. Give me time.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Angel

                  Re: Decimated

                  I have been electromocuted?

                  Does that help?

      2. Blitterbug
        Headmaster

        Re: Maybe the word they work groping for was 'annihilated'

        ...but then that would have been a tautology...

    2. ArmanX
      Boffin

      Re: Decimated

      Obviously, the rats reduced each hachling by a tenth; a leg here, a head there - never the whole hatching, no, just 10%. These are some fairly OCD rats.

      1. perlcat
        Joke

        Re: Decimated

        I just figured that the "decimated" rats were now fully motivated to get about their ratty business. No more desertions or malingering for them!

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Terminator

    A good job for the MIT robot lab, allied to Lockheed-Martin

    Your mission: Develop RAT-101, an autonomous system that can patrol an island-largish area in adverse weather conditions, either terrestrially or aerially for at least a week before needing pick-up. It shall identify and terminate any biological entity of the genus "Rattus" - and only those - by means to be proposed (possible means may include, but are not limited to, projectile weapons or force applied through physical contact). Reusing existing or COTS software and hardware systems is strongly encouraged. Proposal for compact nuclear energy sources are accepted.

    1. Michael Hawkes
      Black Helicopters

      Re: A good job for the MIT robot lab, allied to Lockheed-Martin

      RAT-101? Would that be the first iteration of the Rat-Thing from Snow Crash?

      1. Infernoz Bronze badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: A good job for the MIT robot lab, allied to Lockheed-Martin

        !!Spoiler!!

        That was a cool story, and they were actually cybernetically enhanced stray Dogs, kind of like RoboCop, with Jet engines, used as guard dogs; they'd probably make damned good ratters, given one took out a passenger Jet! :)

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: A good job for the MIT robot lab, allied to Lockheed-Martin

      yeah that's great until it malfunctions and starts destroying humans

  6. The last doughnut
    Mushroom

    I say we nuke them from orbit - its the only way to be sure.

    1. jai

      a downvote? really? on a friday of all things?

      it's all but mandatory that someone makes that quote in this situation, i was going to myself if i hadn't been beaten to it.

      or, did you think it was a serious suggestion??

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bell Labs??

    From Unix to pesticides, all your bug-control needs in one place!

    At least that's the IT angle covered...

  8. TRT Silver badge

    Drop starving celebs on the island. Including hairy cornflakes.

    1. Mike Richards

      You have hit the nail on the head

      'Drop starving celebs on the island. Including hairy cornflakes.'

      Who wouldn't want to see Nadine Dorries chasing rats around the Galagapos?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You have hit the nail on the head

        Who wouldn't want to see rats chasing Nadine Dorries around the Galagapos?

        There, fixed it for you.

  9. Jared Vanderbilt
    FAIL

    We Americans have been eating these flakes for generations

    We just got fatter and so have our rats.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Species specific rat poison.

    Hmmm....can they develop something that only attracts patent lawyers?

    1. Justicesays
      Devil

      Re: Species specific rat poison.

      Blue apples?

    2. Tom 35

      Re: Species specific rat poison.

      I think they just need to make it green (for the US species at lest). Maybe add a BMW logo.

    3. handle
      Stop

      Re: Species specific rat poison.

      If they did, wouldn't they want to patent it, though?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Species specific rat poison.

      I assume you are referring to Homo Ratus, varieties including Patent Lawyer, Injury Compensation 'fishing' (Ambulance Chaser) Lawyer, Inland Revenue Lawyer etc.

  11. NomNomNom

    why don't they just parachute in a shit load of cats?

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      I can lend them mine. I doubt it would take more than two days for her to clear an island. She's seen alien vs predator a few too many times.

    2. Old Handle

      I suppose as long as the cats were sterilized that idea has some merit. Although they would kill alot of endangered critters too. Then again, I'm not convinced the poison won't.

    3. Not That Andrew
      WTF?

      I realise that was a facetious comment but cats would be worse than rats. I suspect one of the reasons that the rodent population has boomed has been they have finally gotten rid of all the cats.

    4. Charles 9 Silver badge

      No since there are endangered birds on the islands, and cats are also known to hunt birds. No, you need something a little more selective.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Neutered starving toms are pretty effective.

        Plus they can be called in or terminated.

        They could have cat and poison weeks each year.

    5. Tom 35

      They have cats too

      They like lizard and bird more then rat.

      1. NomNomNom

        Re: They have cats too

        could send in dogs to round up the cats before they get to the birds

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: They have cats too

          and lions to deal with the dogs :-)

          1. JeffyPooh
            Pint

            Re: They have cats too

            Cane toads.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: They have cats too

              And then sharks to get the lions?

  12. perlcat
    Facepalm

    Seriously, though,

    This is one of those situations where the phrase "what could possibly go wrong with this plan?" should be uttered.

    There *is no freaking way* they can eliminate ALL of the rats. Not gonna happen.

    1. Chuunen Baka

      Re: Seriously, though,

      Been done before: this list http://listverse.com/2011/11/20/10-successful-island-eradication-projects/ includes several rat clearances (including ones where they had to temporarily capture endangered mammals).

      1. Marshalltown

        Re: Seriously, though,

        Pessimist.

        1. perlcat
          Unhappy

          Re: Seriously, though,

          Pessimist? Why, yes, I am. Thank you. I prefer the phrase "able to learn from make past experience", or "willing to make an inference of future occurrences based upon past events.", but "pessimist" works fine, too.

          I think it's a fair assumption that the entire rat population on these islands probably started from one or two breeding pairs. A thoroughly rat-infested ship would not make it all the way across the ocean -- once all the food is gone, the fun stops for the sailors as well, and so rat control en route would be a priority. Can you honestly say that you can eliminate 100% of them? If poison would work, why couldn't they be able to do that on ships, where there's fewer places to hide, and a LOT more motivation to eliminate them? Rats, even at that time, were not food animals -- but vermin to be destroyed out of hand.

          Until those questions can be answered, I'm going to continue assuming that this is one of those sops to our collective conscience that doesn't actually *do* anything other than reduce the problem to somewhat manageable levels, while introducing toxins to an ecosystem that may not be as able to deal with it as we would hope. After all, something's going to eat those poisoned rat carcasses.

  13. Tank boy
    Childcatcher

    A cheaper option.

    Should have just called in the Pied Piper.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: A cheaper option.

      Cheaper? IIRC the last time a German rat charmer was enlisted, the village in question stiffed the piper and ended up paying very steeply. Unfortunately, we can't seem to get our hands on German rat charmers OR Discworld dwarfs (plus, for the latter, I think we have a ketchup shortage).

    2. Midnight

      Re: A cheaper option.

      Or The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents.

    3. Amorous Cowherder
      Coat

      Re: A cheaper option.

      "Somebody think of the children!"

  14. Simon Barnes

    species ?

    I think the furry creatures in the photo are mice :)

  15. Peter Clarke 1
    Devil

    Next Novel

    James Herbert is considering setting his next novel in the SOuth Pacific

  16. Infidellic_
    Coat

    Skyfall SPOILER ALERT

    Wasn't getting rid of rats from an island the main monologue from the antagonist in the recently released Bond film Skyfall?

    IIRC big hole with coconut (replace here with tortoise egg), rat falls in. All rats eat each other then get a taste for rat flesh, realease to wild until they eat every other rat.

    Wonder how viable that is?

    Mine's the one with the Walther PPK

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Skyfall SPOILER ALERT

      The scenario overlooks two nagging problems with rats. One, they're good climbers, and two, they can chew through just about anything.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Skyfall SPOILER ALERT

        Bit like lawyers then? ;)

  17. Pete B

    Blue Waffles?

    Can't believe nobody's mentioned it yet!

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Blue Waffles?

      Actually just use a giant cannon to fire Blue onto the islands from a fair way off shore.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Blue Waffles?

        You forget about the fact they're islands. The GPS helicopters are being used to help keep the stuff away from the water. Now, while it's possible they make it so that it's unattractive to aquatic life, you still have to consider the toxic compounds being leeched into the nearby seawater. Don't think it's gonna be all the healthy for the fish.

        1. handle

          Re: Blue Waffles?

          Yes of course there will be some side-effects. But I assume (naively?) that the poison degrades, and that the stray pellets/runoff are going to be diluted extremely effectively in the open sea.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Joke

          Decimate! Decimate!

          100% of people who write "gonna".

          <-- Joke, because ...ok ...violence would be going a bit too far :)

  18. peyton?
    Devil

    Tourists better look out

    If this works, in a couple months you're going to be visiting an island full of hungry hawks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Tourists better look out

      Wouldn't worry, if they get to the rat carcasses they will also recieve a potentially lethal (its only 0.005% AI)dose of anticoagulant and will stop that problem in its tracks!!!

      Ahh the clockwork perfection of the universe....

  19. Scott Pedigo
    Go

    They should have first let loose a gigantic pack of Jack Russell Terriers. After the dogs have had a field day, round them up and take them back home, and then poison the 2 rats that got away.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Use Teenagers ...

    as in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

  21. Marshalltown

    Curious as to what variety of rat they are

    Rats have been a problem in the Pacific for a long time, predating European guano miners in fact. The asian rat followed along with the first Polynesian immigrants. The evidence that rats killed the palm forests on Easter Island is pretty good, though discussions on the reduction of bird numbers seems to turn to humans more than rats.

  22. totalpacketloss

    If this works successfully, can we scale it up and try it on Scunthorpe ?

    Given the local populace likes blue WKD, then we know that blue is the correct colour to annihilate the chavs. It won't take a GPS 'copter either. Just leave it in the doorways of MaccyD's or on the steps of the 'Blarney Stone' and it will do it's magic from there.

  23. Herby
    Coat

    Begs the question:

    What would PETA say?

    Another comment: I smell a rat!

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Facepalm

    The "green"--import a few hundred monitor lizards to the Galapagos......

    After all, what could possibly go wrong??

    (By the way, how the Hell did Bell Labs go from inventing telecoms kit to developing poisoned corn flakes?)

  25. Bryan Hall
    Trollface

    DC

    So... could we drop some of this in Washington? Lots of rats there!

  26. Alan Brown Silver badge

    not just good climbers

    There have been a number of sucessful eradication campaigns in New Zealand's offshore islands, but the buggers are pretty good swimmers and have been known to recolonise from nearby locations. (where nearby can be up to 30km away)

    The rats in question in the Galapagos are either rattus rattus or rattus norvegicus - both are more agile, fecund and hungrier than the Kiore (Pacific Pat) which polynesians deliberately took along as a food source - but even the pacific rat had a huge impact on island fauna (not as much effect as introducing snakes to Guam did)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or

    Build a solar powered flying quadcopter or 10 armed with autofocussing high power lasers, and heat seekers + pattern recognition designed not to target the local fauna.

    1000W IR pulsed YAG lasers should dispatch an unfortunate rodent in about 100msec, thousands of shots on a single charge plus the rat corpses are then non toxic to other life i.e. birds.

    The quadcopters could charge up during the day from a base station and then fly around at night frying the rats as they went.

    AC/DC

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or

      You forgot the teriyaki sauce drop tanks ;)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More ideas

    Find or make something contagious which kills only rats after a delay like an incubation period, so that it has time to spread to other rats, and put that on plenty of bait around breeding season time.

    Have multiple air hover hunter drones which can roughly target rats and rain multiple tiny rat sensor radio darts on them, followed by more precise killer drones which id, kill, and collect or GPS map them.

    Have people, ground animals or robots find traces of rats, so that killing or tagging traps can be set-up to kill or track rats.

    Drop many radio tagged (for later recovery), rat sensor, directional, tiny cluster mines, which do not fire if other animals are sensed in range. Lay more densely around the edges of the island.

    1. MrZoolook

      Re: More ideas

      Sounds like your average school dinner before Jamie Oliver...

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: More ideas

      "Find or make something contagious which kills only rats after a delay like an incubation period, so that it has time to spread to other rats, and put that on plenty of bait around breeding season time."

      That's actually the standard poisoning tactic. Use something non-toxic for weeks so the rats can smell it on eachs others breath and crave it (especially if rats of higher status have been eating it), then mix in a poison with a delay action such as Talon.

      Anything which kills a rat in less than a week will have the others putting 2+2 together and avoiding it.

  29. Winkypop Silver badge
    Pirate

    NEXT: Blue rice bubbles

    They make you go; Snap, Crackle and Aaaaaaarrrgg!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Childcatcher

      Re: NEXT: Blue rice bubbles

      Upvoted you, but you could have said "snap! crackle!! DROP!!!"

  30. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    If this goes on...

    Until they forbid any visitations by humans in the future, no matter the form of transport, the problem will merely reestablish itself even discounting natural migration from other islands in the group. Despite any assurances to the contrary from anyone, where we go, M. and Mme. rat go as well, excepting space (we think). I know the shipboard procedures, having been on a ship for several years, and they still get on, and off, no matter what we do. Indeed, I've only seen one class of ship that doesn't have a rat problem: gas-turbine vessels due to high frequency turbine noise. I can't see anyone mandating that be a future requirement and it still doesn't address other vectors (aircraft, et al.). Keeping all humans out, period, does. Which ain't gonna (apologies) happen when eco-tourism brings in quite a chunk of change, let alone the pointy-head, grant-spending crowd.

    Given successive iterations of the accidental (really? you knew it would happen) reintroduction and killing cycles, you will create a more successful rat on the islands as there is larger variation amongst other rat populations to select from in comparison to the existing, island-bound, population. You just have to hit the jackpot of one male and one female from the tail end of the genetic lottery to create not only a local headache but possibly a much larger headache in the rest of the world. I bet no one went down that event-chain, did they?

    Don't get me wrong, this is probably the best approach and I've been to a lot of islands with this class of problem. Still, the follow-on consequences, especially the ramifications of continued human visitation by the very people that are the constituency for future visitations give me pause.

  31. Kernel

    Re:Seriously ,though

    Not only has this been done on some small islands off the coast of New Zealand, but just a few km from where I live there is an "inland island" - part of a mountain which has been surrounded with a predator proof fence and all introduced mammals within the area have been eliminated - rats, cats, stoats, goats, possums, pigs, dogs, etc. - in fact the only remaining mammals in the area should be two very small bats.

    This area has recently had kiwi and other ground dwelling birds reintroduced to it - it can be done.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    10 rats per square meter (sic) strikes me as a very suspicious statistic.

  33. silent_count

    Where are the animal rights activists?

    These rats have feelings. They have emotions. They're going to die a painful death. And the animal rights activists are sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

    Now personally, I don't give a rats (haha) if they napalm the islands but it makes me doubt the sincerity of the animal rights people when they're selective about which animals get to have rights.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Angel

      Re: Where are the animal rights activists?

      And what about the christian and non christian rats?

      They all love Jesus too.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Where are the animal rights activists?

        Doesn't apply here. Genesis proclaims man has domain over the animals. IIRC, most of the punishments meted out in the Old Testament come from human-to-human interaction.

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