SYDNEY, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Nearly one dozen islands in Australia's far north will be closed to the public from Monday, as authorities attempt to deal with major rat infestation.
The Queensland State Parks and Wildlife Service will now begin a three-week aerial baiting program to control the rodent pests on the Great Barrier Reef's world heritage listed Frankland and Northern Barnard Islands, where black rats are threatening native seabirds by damaging nests and eating hatchlings.
"Obviously these islands play a very important part in seabird and migratory shorebird habitat," Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Warwick Armstrong told local media.
"We also have a lot of visitors to campgrounds, so there's a risk of disease that's carried by these pest rats."
Although it's not completely clear how the rats came to the islands, it's believed the rodents might have made it there by sneaking off larger boats in the area or were washed toward the islands during flood events.
It is not the first time that authorities have been forced to act on a rat infestation on the islands.
Rangers conducted a control program on the South Barnard Islands back in 2000, which saw the number of seabirds increase dramatically after its completion.