Ecuador's Environment Ministry on Thursday launched a project to eradicate rodents on an island in the Galapagos archipelago.
The initiative is being undertaken to eradicate the black rat and the Norway rat that have proliferated on North Seymour Island and neighboring Mosquera Islet, the ministry said in a statement.
About 30 park rangers participated in the operation on Thursday wearing protective clothing and distributing bait by hand across a little over half of North Seymour and its smaller neighbor, according to the Island Conservation organization, a strategic ally of the ministry.
The ministry noted that the presence of rodents on the islands has been adversely affecting the sites where the nests of seabirds such as frigatebirds and seagulls are found.
Galapagos National Park and Island Conservation used 3,000 kgs (6,614 lbs) of rodenticide to exterminate the invading rats, a killing agent specifically designed to be used in the Galapagos without harming the environment or other species.
Likewise, Island Conservation stated that a foreign company had provided 3D-printed drones and hoppers that were used to apply the rodenticide over 52 percent of North Seymour.
Island Conservation chief Karl Campbell said that this is the first time drones have been used to distribute bait in a rat eradication project and that "these types of operations previously required helicopters, specialized pilots and the spraying of bait from buckets."
Visits to North Seymour Island will be prohibited until Feb. 8, and Park Director Jorge Carrion has said that a second bait application is scheduled for the end of January.
Park ranger Christian Sevilla said that ecological monitors will be put into operation and that the Galapagos could declare themselves rodent-free in the coming years.
The Galapagos Islands are located about 1,000 km (600 mi.) west of the coast of continental Ecuador and were declared a World Natural Heritage Site in 1978.
Some 95 percent of the territory's 8,000 sq.km. (a little over 3,000 sq.mi.) constitutes a protected area that is home to more than 50 species of animals and birds found nowhere else on the planet.
The islands were made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands contributed greatly to his theory of the evolution of species.