By 2011 Palmyra Atoll had become overrun with rats and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), in coordination with Island Conservation decided to do something about it. Palmyra Atoll is a unique natural resource-a grouping of 25 islets in the Line Island archipelago that is cooperatively managed by TNC and FWS as a National Wildlife Refuge. The atoll and the surrounding waters are also protected as part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, for which Marine Conservation Institute successfully advocated. Palmyra is home to 15,000 acres of beautiful pristine coral reefs, numerous species of seabirds and shorebirds, giant clams, sea turtles, reef sharks, endangered fish and whales, and dolphins, as well as a rare coastal strand forest.
The history of rats at Palmyra likely began in 1941, when the atoll was a strategic outpost for the U.S. military and housed 2,400 soldiers. World War II forever altered Palmyra as the military brought roads, houses, waterlines, hospitals, and other infrastructure. Since then the population of the non-native rats grew to about 30,000. The rats threatened native birds, crab, and plant species, which experienced heavy predation.
In 2000 the Nature Conservancy bought Palmyra Island from the Fullard-Leo family to make the area into a nature preserve and in 2001 it became a National Wildlife Refuge. In 2011 the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in coordination with Island Conservation sought to reverse the increase in the non-native rat population. It took seven years of planning and research to ensure the proper elimination of the rats without harm to the native species. Today we can celebrate that Palmyra Atoll has been free of rats for one year! Scientists are already seeing increases in native tree seedlings, seabirds, shorebirds, crabs, and various insects, all of which had previously been food for the voracious rodents.
Marine Conservation Institute supported the removal of the rats and has strengthened the protection of Palmyra Atoll by promoting its inclusion in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. We continue to work with FWS, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, and other partners to improve the protection and management of this national treasure. Palmyra Atoll is a National Wildlife Refuge and should be treated with respect and with the utmost care. In order to protect Palmyra from the reintroduction of rats or any other non-native species, permits are required to visit the area and careful quarantine procedures are required. We continue to work to reduce illegal fishing and trespass around the island monuments. Please help us in protecting our pristine Pacific Islands!