Spoon bender Uri Geller's East Lothian island is declared officially rat free

Uri Geller’s Scottish island has been declared invader-free after a community project to eradicate rats which threatened its bird population.

The Lamb, which lies just off the East Lothian coastline near North Berwick, has been declared free from invasive predators following a successful project to remove a rat, after rodent signs were discovered in Autumn 2020.

The response has been led by a dedicated team of volunteers from the Lothian Sea Kayak Club, and supported by the Scottish Seabird Centre, the Biosecurity for LIFE project, and the RSPB.

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Israeli Geller bought Lamb Island in 2009 for an undisclosed sum and declared it has a mystical heritage.

On a mission: Lothian Sea Kayak Club members head to Lamb Island to eradicate rats. Pic: John Hunt

He has visited several times searching for artefacts relating to the legend of the exiled Egyptian princess Scota, whose boat is said to have anchored at Lamb Island.

During his last visit, Geller said: "I decided to buy the island after learning that its mysterious heritage dated back to the pharaohs.

"The Lamb's geography exactly mirrors the layout of the Great Pyramids at Giza."

But the island’s inhabitants were placed in jeopardy after signs that rats – or at least one rat – had set up home there.

Invader: The rat caught on camera is a threat to ground-nesting seabirds. Pic: RSPB Scotland

Seabirds are the fastest declining group of birds globally, with species like black-legged kittiwakes and Arctic skuas suffering from severe long-term declines and invasive predators are one of the top three threats to seabirds globally.

The birds can’t defend themselves from these skilled hunters and they can have a catastrophic impact on breeding colonies.

This community-led success story was made possible by a small team of experienced kayakers, led by Tim Gibson, Chris Gordon, and Neil Black. In total, they made 35 trips out to the island by kayak to control and monitor rats – using motion-triggered cameras that there was likely only one individual rat present.

Birds like the guillemots are vulnerable to egg predation from rats and other invasive species. Pic: Emily Burton

This vital conservation work is underpinned by the Biosecurity for LIFE project which has worked with 42 seabird island Special Protection Areas around the UK to raise awareness of the threat of invasive predators.

With their help, the Scottish Seabird Centre will continue to work with volunteers to monitor for signs of invasive predators on the Lamb and oversee surveillance measures on Craigleith and Bass Rock to protect these internationally important seabird habitats.

Emily Burton, Conservation Officer at the Scottish Seabird Centre said: “It is a huge relief to know that the Lamb is free of invasive predators, ready for the seabird breeding season ahead. Some incredible birds including puffins, kittiwakes, cormorants, and guillemots will be returning to a safer island to breed this spring, thanks to the tireless dedication of our kayak volunteers over the past 16 months.

" The support and expertise of the Biosecurity for LIFE team has been invaluable in tackling this challenge, along with the RSPB who have supplied resources and advice. I think this project is a testament to the things that are possible when conservation charities and communities collaborate to protect wildlife, in a time when nature urgently needs our help.”

Mind-bending: Lamb Island's famous owner is Uri Geller

Neil Black, one of the kayak volunteers who supported the project, said: “I was really pleased to have been involved in this project and I now have a better understanding of all the cooperation that goes on between different conservation bodies to achieve an overall aim."

Rats can destroy puffin eggs, kill adults and their pufflings. Pic: Emily Burton
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