Bogul Gives The Black Rat The Boot
Thursday 4th December 2008

4th Dec 2008

Bogul Gives The Black Rat The Boot

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Taronga Zoo has begun the trial of a ground-breaking plan to drive the introduced Black Rat out of the north shore's leafy harbourside using a native bush rat called the Bogul.

The project marks the beginning of the first management program to use a native mammal species, the Bogul, as a biological control against the introduced rodent in the Mosman and Sydney Harbour National Parkland region. 

The project is being conducted by Taronga's ecological researcher, Dr Grainne Cleary, Dr. Peter Banks of University of New South Wales and Prof. Chris Dickman of Sydney University and has received joint agency support from Mosman Council, National Parks and Wildlife and Taronga's Association of Zoo Friends.

Dr Cleary said: "We are conducting a test set up within enclosures at the Zoo. The Bogul, which is a regional aboriginal name for the Bush Rat, and Black Rat are competitors and can't co-exist. If Bogul populations can be re-established and gain residency in bushland habitats, they'll out-compete the Black Rat. The Bogul is not vermin. It doesn't climb trees to raid bird's nests, and won't lurk around the suburban neighbourhood. It's a native mammal that will remain in the bush and keep the Black Rat population at bay."

Introduced in 1788 with European settlement, the Black Rat quickly replaced the native rat which has co-evolved with Australia's bushland for thousands of years. Europeans disturbed the environment making it more suitable for the pest rodent and the species' fast breeding helped the opportunistic Black Rat to quickly take over.

Taronga's bush regeneration specialist, Wendy Kinsella has spent a decade working with locals to return to the Harbour foreshore around the Zoo to what it was 200 years ago, even abseiling on the cliffs to remove lantana, so the ideal habitat for Boguls was re-established.

Survey work across the Sydney Harbour National Park suggests that native small mammal communities, such as the pygmy possums and native bush rats or Boguls, are largely extinct and have been replaced by Black Rats. Native plants have not been spared with the pest rodent eating seedlings and stopping bush regeneration.

"The Black Rat is a bad rat for natural environments. It's a vector of disease for humans, pets and our Australian wildlife. In the bush it directly affects a whole host of species and hunts small animals such as reptiles and especially birds eggs," Dr Cleary said.

"Black Rats are thought to eat the eggs of birds of prey which may play an important role in keeping Indian Myna populations in check. Without birds of prey Indian Myna populations may flourish and potentially drive away native birds and marsupials such as the Feather-tailed Glider."

If the trial is successful, Black Rats around Mosman and Cremorne will be vastly reduced and Boguls will be re-introduced into four bushland sites in the area in a larger trial.

"We're aiming to turn back the tide of vertebrate invasion. We will give the bush rat a helping hand to re-establish itself as the dominant species. Once this is achieved the native mammal will no longer be the victim of an invasive pest, but become an active fighter against the Black Rat. With time the ecosystem's natural balance should return,"

Mosman Mayor Councillor Dom Lopez said: "Taronga's exciting new project will rid Mosman bushland of black rats and introduce the native Bogul into bushland to restore Mosman's natural bushland ecosystem. Council is committed to supporting this project as it will benefit both the environment and the Mosman community."

Students from Mosman High are also involved in the project. The school students are learning about the native rat and will help educate the local community about this re-introduction program.

Introduced Black Rat - Rattus rattus

Introduced Black Rat
Rattus rattus

Native Bush Rat - Rattus fuscipes

Native Bush Rat
Rattus fuscipes

Native Ringtail Possum - Pseudocheirus peregrinus

Native Ringtail Possum
Pseudocheirus peregrinus

Long tail in relation to body - usually body length Shorter tail Long tail used as another limb with a white tip
Agile climbers Ground dwelling Tree dwelling
Invades human disturbed areas Lives in dense forest undergrowth Lives in urban and bush land habitat
Aggressive Shy Shy
Pointy ears Round ears

 

Taronga and Western Plains Zoos care for 4000 animals from over 350 species, provide conservation messages to over 1.5 million visitors and conservation education to over 100,000 school students annually. The Zoos also conduct a huge range of conservation research, breeding and in situ projects from Antarctica to Mongolia and throughout Australia and Asia, while providing wildlife health services to thousands of native animals each year.

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