The Shiant Isles have been officially declared rat-free after a £1 million project
to restore them as a secure haven for nesting seabirds.
A cull took place to eradicate the black rat which infested the islands and was blamed
for the decline in sea fowl populations on what is one of the most important breeding
colonies in Europe.
Now puffins, razorbills, and guillemots are expected to raise more chicks boosting
It is hoped that Manx shearwaters and storm petrels will begin to nest on the islands
Around 100,000 pairs of seabirds breed on the Shiants, five miles east of Harris.
But the rats preyed on the nests, feeding on the eggs and chicks, impacting on their
breeding success, said conservationists.
None have been recorded there for two years, the internationally agreed criterion
for rat-free status.
The EU LIFE+ funded Shiants seabird recovery project started in 2014 and is a partnership
between the Nicolson family, custodians of the islands for three generations, Scottish
Natural Heritage and RSPB Scotland.
Project manager Dr Charlie Main said: “This is an absolutely fantastic moment for
the Shiant Isles and everyone involved in the project is delighted that they are
now officially rat free.
“With so many of Scotland’s seabird populations in decline it’s vital that we do
all we can to help them.
“Over the next few years we’re really looking forward to seeing the full impact of
the islands’ restoration flourish with the seabirds enjoying improved breeding successes,
and other species beginning to breed there as well.
“We’ll also continue to work with the local community to ensure this special place
remains free of rats.”