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The Rat Apocalypse in New Zealand

Sep 05, 2019 | 16 videos
Video by The Atlantic

Updated at 6:05pm ET on September 12, 2019.

New Zealand has a rat problem. The non-native rodent, which originally hitched a ride to the island on ships in the 13th century, has proliferated to such an extent that it is now partially responsible for the endangerment of many of New Zealand’s native species.* The kakapo, for example—a giant flightless parrot that is endemic to the island, and evolved without the threat of rats—nearly went extinct in 1960. Today, its population stands at 153.

To save the country’s birds, New Zealand has introduced an ambitious plan to eradicate its invasive predators. Predator Free 2050 will employ multiple techniques, including CRISPR, with a single end goal: to kill every last rat on the island.

For more, read Ed Yong’s Atlantic article, “New Zealand’s War on Rats Could Change the World.”

*  This video originally stated rats were introduced to New Zealand via ships. In fact, they arrived on seafaring canoes.

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Authors: Catherine Spangler, Sophia Myszkowski, Caitlin Cadieux

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Deconstructing the way we live, with The Atlantic's writers