Drones battle 65K rats that invaded Marlon Brando’s island

Did the black rats bring Marlon Brando? Or did Marlon Brando bring the black rats?

We’ll never know. According to Wired, they both arrived at roughly the same time on Tetiaroa atoll, a remote 3.7-square-mile island in French Polynesia.

But now the legendary Brando is dead, having left behind a modestly sized village he built on the island a few years after filming 1962’s “Mutiny on the Bounty” – and where tens of thousands of rats are thriving.

Sally Esposito, a spokesperson for Brando Family Trust, told Wired that there are as many as 65,000 rats on Tetiaroa atoll.

Now, members of a group called Island Conservation think they have a solution to the ratty incursion: drones. Uniquely engineered drones will fly over the island and carpet the place, sea to sea, with poison pellets. As put by Wired: “The charity will implement the world’s first scalable, heavy-lift drone operation to remove invasive rats.”

Territorial rodents have thinned bird and turtle populations there – using their tiny, sharp teeth, rats like to gorge on eggs and hatchlings of fliers, as well as reptiles – and that contributes to nearby coral reefs losing out on proper amounts of nutrients.

In short, rats on the island behave exactly as you think they would after achieving the upper hand.

However, the conservation group’s approach to thinning the rodent herd is highly considered.

“We’ve been watching drone technology for a number of years with the idea that it can dramatically reduce cost and also democratize island restoration by allowing local experts to be able to fly them [by] using precision automating processes,” David Will, innovation program manager at Island Conservation, told the publication.

Havoc-wreaking rats may have met their match.
Havoc-wreaking rats may have met their match.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

This is not the first attempt to kill off the pesky predators. A 2012 effort – using an undisclosed technique that simply may have been people laying down poison – failed because islanders lost what appears to be a zero-sum game: If 100 percent of the rats are not exterminated, the infestation will return in short order. According to research, one pregnant rat can take over a 4-square-mile island in just two years.

With that in mind, it is clear that time is of the essence when it comes to decimating the rat herd.

“Species are going extinct at a rapid pace,” fretted Will, referring to the birds and reptiles that equal gourmet fare for the island’s rats. “We know that if we don’t do anything, species will go extinct.”

Here is the rats' match: High-tech drones that drop poison pellets.
Here is the rats’ match: High-tech drones that drop poison pellets.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hopefully, that won’t happen. And, if things proceed as planned, the last of the rats, weak from poison, could be echoing a set of Brando’s most iconic lines: “I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody, instead of a bum. Which is what I am — let’s face it.”

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