Successful eradication of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and house mouse (Mus musculus) from the island of Selvagem Grande (Macaronesian archipelago), in the Eastern Atlantic.
The Portuguese island of Selvagem Grande (Great Salvage) in Macaronesia is an important seabird breeding station in the eastern Atlantic. Significant populations of Cory's shearwater Calonectris diomedea (Scopoli, 1769), Bulwer's petrel Bulweria bulweria (Jardine & Selby, 1828) and little shearwater Puffinus assimilis baroli (Bonaparte, 1857) are present, and white-faced storm-petrel Pelagodroma marina (Latham, 1790) and Madeiran storm-petrel Oceanodroma castro (Harcourt, 1851) populations are of global significance. Selvagem Grande also provides diverse habitats for an extensive flora, including 11 endemic species. The 270-ha island was also inhabited by two alien invasive mammals: the European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus (Linnaeus, 1758) and the house mouse Mus musculus (Linnaeus, 1758). Both are known to have had adverse impacts on breeding seabirds and island vegetation. In 2002, the Natural Park of Madeira conducted a program using brodifacoum bait formulations aimed at rabbit and mouse eradication. Approximately 17 000 individual baiting points were established on a 12.5×12.5 m grid. Baits were also applied by hand "seeding" on steep slopes and cliffs where bait stations could not be placed. Rabbits were removed after a month. However, mice persisted for considerably longer and strategic bait applications against them continued for a further six months. Subsequent assessments by trapping, bait takes and systematic observation of signs over three years, has confirmed the removal of both alien invasive species. This paper presents information on these operations, on measures adopted to mitigate adverse impacts of the eradication program on important vertebrate non-target species, including Berthelot's pipit Anthus berthelotii Bolle, 1862 and a species of gecko Tarentola bischoffi Joger, 1984 and on the initial response of the island's ecosystem to the eradication of rabbits and mice.