Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland, UK

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Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland, UK

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LIFE Raft

Rathlin Acting For Tomorrow

The LIFE Raft project, led by the RSPB in partnership with the Rathlin Community, aims to protect Northern Ireland’s most important seabird colony on Rathlin Island from invasive non-native species. Brown rats and ferrets have been predating on seabirds for decades, causing them to retreat further and further down the cliffs to find somewhere safe to nest. Internationally important numbers of Guillemots are in danger, as are hundreds of Atlantic Puffins. and other seabirds. Last year only a third of Rathlin’s Atlantic Puffin chicks survived long enough to leave the nest.

Rats and ferrets also cause problems for the 160 people living on Rathlin. Ferrets make it almost impossible to keep poultry, while rats nibble through wires, are a pest to farmers, and are a potential spreader of disease.

In October 2023, after years of planning, the operational phase began with the opening of over 500 traps. As of spring 2024, the project is cautiously optimistic that there are a very small number left. Intensive monitoring is underway, using everything from detection dogs to trail cameras, and even thermal drones.

In autumn 2024 the project will begin the rat eradication phase. It won’t be possible to determine whether the rat phase has been successful until the end of 2026 at the earliest, but it is possible that in just a few short years Rathlin Island will be a haven for seabirds. If successful, this will be the first ever feral ferret eradication in the world. For updates, please visit Rathlin360.com.

A Voice from the Community

"The success of this project will mean that the wildlife of Rathlin, the sights and sounds that we grew up with, can continue. The seabirds and ground-nesting birds are a big part of our natural heritage as well as being a major draw to the island for tourists during the spring and summer months. By protecting them we are making sure that our island community plays a part in protecting this shared heritage for future generations."

- Michael Cecil, Chair of the Rathlin Development Community Association

The Project

LIFE Raft is a five-year project made up of international eradication experts, a strong community engagement and socioeconomic arm, a dedicated fieldwork team, and climbers to install pathways across the cliffs. The active eradication is project to run until spring 2025, with ongoing monitoring and biosecurity continuing through till 2027.

Project Partners & Funders

LIFE Raft is funded by EU LIFE; National Lottery Heritage Fund; the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Garfield Weston Foundation; the Rathlin Development Community Association (RDCA); and the RSPB. It is a partner project, led by the RSPB with the RDCA and the Rathlin community at its centre.

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