The end of the rat race? New Zealand aims to become rat free

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — With their ability to travel, multiply and spread disease, rats have long been one of mankind’s greatest pests.

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

Prime Minister John Key on Monday announced an ambitious plan to completely rid the South Pacific nation of rats and 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 native bird species are threatened with extinction because rats and other pests feast on their eggs.

New Zealand is hoping to build on its success in eradicating rats from several of its smaller islands.

Some scientists caution the goal, while laudable, will be extremely difficult to achieve.