In a bid to protect the integrity of the Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Koror State Government Department of Conservation and Law Enforcement (DCLE) has partnered with Island Conservation, an international non-profit organization to remove rats and cats from the Ulong Island Complex. The project, funded by the United States Department of Interior through its Coral Reef and Natural Resources Initiative, will commence in March next year and protect native species and restore ecosystems currently at risk. ‘Our vision is to build resiliency of the ecosystems on Ulong Islands by removing invasive rats” said Jennifer S. Olegeriil Director of the DCLE.
“We intend to measure the response within both the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of Ulong” said Tommy Hall of Island Conservation. “In the short term, we expect birds such as the megapode and ground dove to increase in numbers and become more visible to island visitors. Beyond this, is the hope that the island’s seabird populations will increase in numbers, leading to a rich nutrient flow between land and sea”.
“These nutrients are important for the productivity of our reefs and nearshore fisheries” said Director Olegeriil who also expects the project to benefit invertebrates, including endangered snails and land crabs.
“A vital component of the $1M project will be ensuring that rats and other invasive species such as ants and weeds are not taken to Ulong or any of the other islands of the RISL” said Governor Franco Gibbons of Koror State Government. “We, the people of Palau, and our visitors need to be vigilant and do everything we can to avoid moving invasive species between islands”. His message is clear, “anyone heading into the RISL must check their boat and gear to ensure it is free of rats, ants and other pests prior to departing the main islands”.
Ulong will be closed for a short period of time during the operation and a temporary moratorium will be placed on taking any resources, such as crabs. The public will be notified ahead of time on the upcoming closures of the island.