Bell Laboratories, Inc. was honored recently with the 2011 Wisconsin Business Friend of the Environment award from the Wisconsin Environmental Working Group for developing a specialized bait used to eradicate invasive rats on the Galapagos Islands.
The pelleted bait was aerially applied in January 2011 to several small islands during Phase I of the Galapagos Island Restoration project, the first large-scale rat eradication project ever conducted on oceanic islands in South America. Run by the Galapagos National Park Service, the project aims, over the next 20 to 25 years, to eliminate Norway rats, roof rats and house mice from the delicate ecosystems of this tropical archipelago.
"We developed a bait that can withstand the rigors of aerial application yet breaks down into inert components reasonably quickly," noted Peter Martin, Bell's Technical Director who has spearheaded work in island conservation projects for Bell Laboratories since 2002.
Rats, whose predecessors came to the Galapagos Islands aboard ships in the late 17th century, pose a significant conservation problem to the flora and fauna of these arid islands, located some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Rats, which feed on whatever they encounter, have endangered some 50 birds species, eight of them critically, as well as iguanas, a number of plant species, and the Galapagos penguins. Without human intervention, even the eggs and hatchlings of the giant Galapagos tortoises would fall prey to these ravaging omnivores.
The Charles Darwin Foundation, a managing partner in the project, approached Bell in 2008 to draw from its experience in other island conservation projects to develop a bait consistent with the Foundation's dedication to the conservation of the Galapagos Islands' ecosystem.
"The Charles Darwin Foundation felt comfortable with Bell's expertise and skills gleaned from earlier island projects," noted Martin, referring to Bell's work in developing bait used for rat eradication on the Channel Islands off the coast of California and Rat Island in Alaska's Aleutian Islands chain for which Bell received environmental stewardship awards in 2007 and 2009, respectively.
Results from the first round of baiting on several small islands in the Galapagos were encouraging with many dead rodents observed and a noticeable drop in rodent activity. It takes two years of careful monitoring, however, to determine that eradication is completely successful.
At the award ceremony in Pewaukee, Wis., on May 12, Bell was joined by eight other Wisconsin companies honored for demonstrating that "sound environmental practices are good for Wisconsin's environment and its economy."
The Wisconsin Environmental Working Group, an affiliate of the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, for the past 22 years has honored companies that "reflect the continued commitment of Wisconsin industry to environmental protection"