The reclaiming of the shrew

The Etruscan Shrew was believed to have died out 50 years ago on the island of Tavolara, which lies just off the coast of Sardinia. The world’s smallest mammal, which weighs less than 2 grams and has a body length of roughly 1.5 inches was rediscovered on the island, decades after it was thought to be extinct.

Conservationists have been working to eradicate the large rat populations on the island in order to protect a colony of around 10,000 Manx shearwater which nest there. The programme started in 2012 and involved dropping poisonous bait on the island and was recently declared a success when the island was confirmed to be rat free. The rats were feeding on the eggs and chicks of the birds and were a huge problem but with the eradication came sparks in life for both the Manx shearwater and Etruscan Shrew.

One of the photographers from the conversation projects said “It was wonderful to find this little animal, a great feeling. No one, not even the locals, had seen one since the 1960’s. It’s impossible to say how many there might be on the island.”

A year on from the last poison distribution, no rats have been detected.

Although the Etruscan shrew was nearly at the point of extinction on the island it is relatively widespread in Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. It may be a small animal but has a great appetite, eating up to twice its bodyweight each day.

The eradication of the rat population on the island has not only benefited the Etruscan shrew but the small creatures such as lizards, geckos and tortoises.

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