All around the world went the ship rat. From India to Britain around the third century. From Britain to us, arriving on the sailing ships, about 1830.
Swiftly they ran. Into our towns, across our farms, into our forests. Spreading in the North Island after 1860, the South Island after 1890.
They’re superb climbers. Going up the tree-trunks, running right to the tree-tops.
Hunting mostly at night, using smell, touch, hearing & taste, they take eggs, chicks & sitting adults.
Small nesting birds like miromiro (the tomtit), who wouldn’t leave their young, are often killed.
Way down south, in the 1960s, they landed on two off-shore islands. There they wiped out birds. The last great short-tailed bat was gone forever. And gone too, from there, were tieke (the saddleback), Stead’s bush wren, Stewart Island snipe, and matata (the fernbird).
In non-beech forest, they are our greatest bird killer. They prey on more forest birds than any other pest mammal.
But we are working hard to get rid of them. We get better & better. They are now gone from 18 off-shore islands (as at 2007).
It’s all very weird though. Here the ship rat is everywhere (except in alpine places). But back in Britain, they’re now rare & hard to find!!!