The End of the Rat Race? New Zealand Aims to Become Rat Free | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

The End of the Rat Race? New Zealand Aims to Become Rat Free

The government is hoping a rat-free countryside will give a boost to native birds, including the iconic kiwi

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Alexander W Helin/Getty Images/Flickr RF
    Prime Minister John Key, of New Zealand, announced a plan to completely rid the South Pacific nation of rats.

    Their abilities to travel, multiply and spread disease have always made rats one of mankind's greatest pests.

    New Zealand says it's time to wipe them out. Every last one of them.

    Inmate Convulses During Execution With Controversial Drug

    [NATL] Fourth Arkansas Inmate Convulses During Execution With Controversial Drug

    The controversy over midazolam, a drug used during state executions of convicted inmates, rises following the execution of a fourth Arkansas inmate in eight days. Witnesses say Kenneth Williams, put on death row for the 1999 murder of two people, moved and shook during his execution Thursday night.

    (Published 6 hours ago)

    Prime Minister John Key on Monday announced an ambitious plan to completely rid the South Pacific nation of rats and some other nuisance animals, including possums and stoats, by the year 2050.

    The government is hoping a rat-free countryside will give a boost to native birds, including the iconic kiwi. Many bird species are threatened with extinction because rats and other pests feast on their eggs and compete with them for food.New Zealand is hoping to build on its success in eradicating rats from several of its smaller islands.

    However, some scientists caution the goal, while laudable, will be extremely difficult to achieve in a nation that's similar in size to the United Kingdom.

    Speaking from a wildlife sanctuary in Wellington, Key said the goal would require the help of everyone from philanthropists to indigenous Maori tribes.

    Man Sees Vera Wang Diamond Ring on Sidewalk, Finds Its Owner

    [NATL] Man Finds Vera Wang Diamond Engagement Ring on Sidewalk, Tracks Down Its Owner

    Imagine looking down and finding a pristine diamond ring lying on the sidewalk. That was how Glenn Weddell found a Vera Wang diamond ring one afternoon in Sacramento, California. But instead of keeping it, Weddell hunted down the distraught owner to return the ring in a happy reunion. His method involved posting a sign to a tree downtown and hoping for the best. 

    (Published Thursday, April 27, 2017)

    "This is the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world, but we believe if we all work together as a country we can achieve it," he said.

    He said the government would initially contribute 28 million New Zealand dollars ($20 million) over four years toward setting up a company to run the program, and would consider partially matching money contributed by local councils and businesses.

    Key acknowledged the goal would only be achieved with scientific advances.

    New Zealand's Department of Conservation has eradicated rats from several small islands using traps, poisons and baits. And it has also intensively managed some areas on the main islands to make them safer for native birds.

    Flyer Protections on Overbooked Plane Flights

    [NATL] Flyer Protections on Overbooked Plane Flights

    NBC reports on the steps that flyers and travelers can take to protect themselves, and their vacation, from an overbooked flight.

    (Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017)

    But it would require a massive escalation of those efforts to completely wipe out the pests.

    Ecologist James Russell, from the University of Auckland, has written about the idea before.

    "I really do think it's possible," he said. "It will require people working in every nook and corner of the country."

    He said getting rid of the pests would make a huge difference to the health of native flora and fauna.

    New Artificial Wombs Stimulates Mom for Preemies

    [NATL] New Artificial Wombs Stimulates Mom for Preemies

    A new invention from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia may soon care for extremely premature babies. Artificial wombs stimulate an environment similar to a mother's womb - a method that researchers say is gentler than ventilators and incubators. 

    (Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017)

    New Zealand is unusual in that its native animals are mainly birds, some of which became flightless over time. When humans arrived and brought rats, the rodents had few predators.

    Jacqueline Beggs, another ecologist from the university, said eliminating pests from small, uninhabited islands was one thing, but getting everybody from farmers to anti-government types to agree on the idea would prove much more difficult, if not impossible.

    "It's definitely a fantastic challenge," she said. "It will really stretch the boundaries."

    Beggs said she also worries the goal could distract from other important environmental issues and could even create new problems, such as an explosion in the population of mice.

    Teens Overcoming Opioids Seek Treatment in Recovery Schools

    [NATL] Teens Overcoming Opioid Dependence Seek Treatment in 'Recovery Schools'

    A new method for battling teenage opioid abuse comes not in the form of a new drug or counseling method, but in special "recovery schools" that emphasize communal support and positive peer pressure. 

    (Published Tuesday, April 25, 2017)