Sydneysiders are being called on to help scientists re-establish the ‘good rat’, the native Bogul, which could drive vermin Black Rats from our suburbs.
In what may be a world-first, scientists from Taronga Zoo, Sydney University and University of NSW are planning to release native Bush Rats or ‘Boguls’ into designated bush land around North Shore Suburbs in an attempt to force out disease-carrying Black Rats.
If successful, it could be a ground-breaking step toward controlling the introduced Black Rat species which to date have risen to plague proportions across our city.
Black Rats, unlike the benign Bogul, invade houses, chew on wiring, carry diseases that can spread to humans and wildlife and climb trees to devour eggs of native birds. The Bogul, however is a native mammal that doesn’t lurk in the suburbs or invade our homes but suppresses the Black Rat in surrounding bushland habitat.
The project’s researcher, Dr. Grainne Cleary, said: “Last year we conducted a trial project at Taronga Zoo to see if the good rats of this world, the native Bogul could drive off the Black Rat within restored bush habitat.”
“As we suspected, the good old Aussie Battler, the native Bush Rat won the fight. This success means we are now ready to take the project to a higher level beyond Taronga’s grounds, targeting bushland areas around Mosman, Cremorne and the Northern Beaches.”
The next phases will occur over the next three years. It will involve setting up 12 experimentation sites around the North Shore, profiling Black Rat populations, intensively trapping the vermin rats at designated sites and monitoring the affect on wildlife and speed of reinvasion by Black Rats to fill the void.
“The most exciting aspect of the project will be releasing native Boguls back into the foreshore surrounding Sydney Harbour,” said Dr. Cleary.
“Past research carried out at Taronga Zoo and Javis Bay has shown that they will then suppress Black Rat reinvasion. In the absences of the black rats we will see the native flora and fauna begin to flourish again. Small mammal species like Feather-tail Gliders, native bird species and microbats have all fallen victim to Black Rats, smashing the small animals’ populations. With a little help from us it is hoped over time, the ecosystem’s natural balance will return,” said Dr. Cleary.
However the project relies on the support of the local community, with volunteers needed to assist with helping to trap rats, monitor rat reinvasion and examine the responses of the local wildlife.
“We need the local community to lead the way, adopt the native mammal and help the Boguls win the rat war.” said Dr. Cleary. “This project will only succeed with the support of the local community and we need help in order to drive out the black rats and prepare the habitat from the return of the native”
“The Black Rats were introduced in 1788 with European Settlement. Sadly due to environmental destruction the invaders gained an early foothold in the colony because settlers quickly cleared harbour foreshores, with a devastating affect on Bogul populations.”
“It is now time to make amends for our past mistakes and help give the Black Rat the boot. Along with the community’s support, we are aiming to turn back the tide of invasion and mark 2010 with the return of the true blue Bogul” said Dr. Cleary.
Residents wanting to help the Boguls gain the upper hand and work directly with conservation on the foreshore should contact Dr. Cleary at: email@example.com or 0435 547 743.
The project has received joint agency support from National Parks and Wildlife, Mosman Council and Taronga’s Zoo Friends.