20 February 2018
The Landscape & Ecology Mitigation Programme (LEMP) along with the Agriculture & Natural Resources Division (ANRD) submitted a proposal to trial rabbit control with poison bait following discussions with conservation organisations as well as the Environment Management Division (EMD) and the Environment & Natural Resources Directorate (ENRD) colleagues around the issue of rabbit impact on conservation and agriculture.
A 2008 study of rabbits on St Helena indicated that poison had the potential to be the most effective control solution and a trial was proposed to test this and to provide information to inform an Island-wide strategy of pest control in the future. Two poisons were originally proposed – an acute poison which kills rabbits within a few hours and an anticoagulant, similar to that used as rat bait, which works over a longer time period. After discussion with the Environment & Natural Resources Committee (ENRC) the anticoagulant was considered the only viable option as it enabled concerns regarding public safety and impact on the environment and non-target animals to be mitigated.
At the ExCo meeting on 6 February 2018, after much discussion, Council in the majority advised and the Governor agreed to enact the Rabbit Control & Destruction Trial Rules, 2018.
The legal framework would enable a strictly monitored trial using poison bait. However an information evening was held at Longwood on Thursday, 15 February 2018, delivered by LEMP and ANRD to inform the public of the planned trial and to get the public’s views. It became clear at this meeting and from comments received on Social Media that while many members of the public support the principle of rabbit control, there were serious concerns regarding the use of poison, including around public safety and animal welfare. Given the strength of the feeling at the meeting it was not deemed appropriate to move ahead with the poison trial and LEMP, through the Chairman of the ENRC, advised Governor in Council today that it would like to withdraw the proposal and recommend that the trial rules are not enacted.
Many members of the public at the meeting were in favour of shooting rabbits and ANRD is working with the Police Directorate and the AG’s Chambers to establish safe processes for enabling this in specific areas. For some sites, in particular those that are ecologically sensitive or close to the Airport, shooting may not be an appropriate option and LEMP will continue to use fencing and repellents as well as investigating a programme of live trapping in these areas.
ENRD will continue to investigate effective long-term solutions and will endeavour to work with the public to control the rabbit population to protect crops and endemic wildlife.
20 February 2018