Drones Rain Down Rat Poison On The Galapagos

If your favorite movie is Ratatouille, now would be a good time to read a different article. Rats on the Galápagos Islands are an invasive species and eradication is underway. This is not a first for the islands, and they are fiercely protected since they are the exclusive home to some species including the distinctive tortoise from which the island derives its name and of course finches. Charles Darwin studied the finches while writing On the Origin of Species. So yeah, we want to keep this island from becoming unbalanced and not disturb the native wildlife while doing it. How do we check all these boxes? Technology! Specifically, hexacopters carrying rat poison.

The plan is simple, drive a truck to a central location, release the hounds drones and fifteen minutes later they come back after flying high above the indigenous wildlife and dropping pest control pellets. The drones save time and labor, making them a workhorse rather than a novelty. This work experience on their resume (CV) could open the door to more dirty work or more wholesome activities. Who is to say that the same drones, the exact same ones, couldn’t deliver plant seeds, or nourishing food to the dwindling species harmed by the rat population explosion.

What would you deliver with drones? How about providing parcels or just learning a better way to navigate?

Via IEEE Spectrum.

19 thoughts on “Drones Rain Down Rat Poison On The Galapagos

  1. The only problem with dropping rat poison in the open is other animals might also eat the poison. one way around this is to use a poison that breaks down after two weeks so it can’t continue to kill unintended animals.

    1. It seems that most of the “native” animals are not mammals (excluding sea lions and other visiting sea mammals) so if the poison is specific to mammals and is kept away from the coastal areas it would be effective. If we can protect the native species drench the place.

      1. TL;DR
        They capture birds of prey and release them weeks after the poison is distributed. The toxin (so-called super warfarins) doesn’t seem to present a high risk to reptiles and is placed far from shore to limit exposure to marine mammals.

    1. They’ve been poisoning rats on these islands for decades, both by hand and through helicopter drops. I think those issues have been dealt with

      The only thing different here is using drones as delivery mechanism instead, which have the benefit of being much less invasive than the manual approach, and much cheaper than the helicopter one.

  2. The problem with rodents, is they compete for food, with the native species. If the poison appeals to the rats, it’ll be eaten by the animals meant to be saved. Poison isn’t that selective, just takes longer for some critters. The poison will also be leached into the water supply. Bugs eating the dead rats, then eaten by birds, could also kill some unintended targets.

    Would guess that it must be a major infestation, to be considered a problem worth spending time and money fixing. All those dead rats and animals, will breed a lot of of bacteria, that don’t really care if their food is still breathing. Sick, dying rats like to find a place to hide, some place safe from predators, while the hopeful get over the illness. Sort of why rat poison inside in people inhabited places, is a bad idea, unless you don’t mind the ripe aroma for a week or two.

    Bait stations would be a much better way to target just the rodent population, since less invasive chemicals are introduced in the environment. Poison are only effective, where the replace a natural food source. The rats will mostly ignore the unknown food/poison, if they can get enough good food. They might kill a few rats, but they won’t get them all, this infestation will always be a problem. Cool drone though…

    1. I wish I could remember who did, in an effort to control another species , once again man has introduced a species which then got it of control after the target animal was subdued. Will they ever learn…me thinks some research in how many times they have done this with it back firing every time…is in my agenda…

    2. The first if not second landfall brought with it all kinds of flora and critters, centuries before him. Many islands are run rampant with introduced accidents as well as rabbits. Tree snakes like aircraft landing gear and hop a ride in the jet age. The saddest loss is of the mega-chicken, drumsticks a meter-yard long! Oh, but no wings.

  3. Poison has a residual effect.





    Sending a drone is less safe than sending a trained exterminator in to protect wildlife. It is like sending a check to a charity instead of being involved.

    Who is going to clean up the rat? It might get infected by flies and create hundreds of maggots.

    1. Thinking like that is what lead to Australia’s cane toad problem and Guam’s snake problem. Introducing a non native species to counter another invasive species can be very problematic. Even if it works to control the original invasive species you end up with new invasive species that goes out of control due to the lack of a predator.

      Much like the lady who swallowed a fly who ate a spider to eat the fly, then needed a bird to eat the spider, etc.

    2. >”everyone and everything is laced for hundreds to thousands of years with substances we didn’t evolve with in that concentration”

      Technically, we did evolve with things like Caesium – just not the radioactive kind. It was first discovered in mineral water springs people were using for baths.

      As for the radioactivity, pretty much everywhere there’s granite and sandy beaches, there’s places of high radioactivity because of weathered rock that contains uranium, thorium, and their daughter isotopes – including plutonium. People have been living for thousands of years in areas that would be closed off according to nuclear safety standards, and most of the rare earth metal mines in the US were closed off after environmentalists complained about the nuclear waste they put out. (See: Mount Thorium)

      Long story short: we’ve evolved with heavy poisonous metals, and radioactivity, and we tolerate them well up to a point.

      1. “Long story short: we’ve evolved with heavy poisonous metals, and radioactivity, and we tolerate them well up to a point.”

        Good call. Then there is the Radon which is more common in the U.S. and what I learned more at west in some water sources that I knew about more-so around the mines in regards to tailings or runoff… arsenic. Best to have a special filter for that range of potential toxins.

        I switched to a different table salt (Redmond Real Salt) and like with the Kelp Granules… and I’m used to reviewing the ingredients and analytical data if available and found this:

        Cesium surprised me how much the concentration is naturally in some locations. That was a new one to me also in recent years. Yeah… the radio isotopes that are man made are the concern more-so.

        I think the isotopes administration and management is an area of opportunity to focus on development for nucleogenesis operations to stabilize synthetic isotopes maybe as a way to treat waste even if we launch payloads into space and do somewhere else maybe. Seems far fetched… though something to dream about. Thinking there are worse poisonous concerns to deal with in the mean time especially with all the tech implements available to detect and the issue where no one does the forensics job.

  4. We have an exterminating company who visited where I work. They have a man who is their man who handles rats and he puts the traps down before he baits them because the rats are afraid of anything new. He works for a major exterminating company.

    I went looking on the web for validation and it says:

    “Rats are Neophobic”

    “Most rats will avoid anything new in their territory, whether it’s a trap or a piece of wood, for a few days until they get used to it. Even then, they will approach it cautiously. You already know how this complicates pest control efforts.”


    So if you are dropping poision from a drone or helicopter, it will poison the environment and the rats will ignore it.

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