Encouraging Native Water Rats to combat Black Rats

University of Sydney, Professor Peter Banks’ research examines how native species might be used in the battle to control alien species. His work around the harbour focusses on black rats, which were introduced to Australia with early europeans and now totally dominate the woodland around the harbour foreshore. One of his projects is examining whether restoration of ecological assemblages can prevent reinvasion of this pest after control. Specifically it aims to examine whether reintroduction of a once common species of native rodent (bush rats) can prevent reinvasions of feral black rats into the same area after control. Professor Banks’  earlier research has shown that black rats and bush rats are even competitors, and dominance depends upon a residency advantage.

Professor Banks’ ultimately aims to give bush rats a residence advantage by reducing black rat numbers and reintroducing bush rats.  The significance of this work is threefold; firstly, it will reduce the impacts of black rats, secondly it will reduce the need for expensive rat control, and thirdly it will reduce the need for prolonged use of poisons to reduce black rat numbers.

Another of Professor Banks’  projects looks at whether water rats, Australia’s biggest native rodent and a resident of Sydney Harbour, are currently playing a role in suppressing black rat numbers. Water rats are large carnivorous rodents, found on the beaches and small inlets around the harbour, and should not tolerate the smaller black rats competing for the same resources they want. Professor Banks has been mapping and comparing the locations of water rats and black rats around the harbour and observing their competitive interactions with video footage.

Learn more about the Rat Research Project by clicking on the link below and viewing the video – Sydney Bush Rat Collaborative Research Project