Rats, not men, to blame for death of Easter Island's civilization





It was the first and most extreme ecological disaster. Easter Island, in the south Pacific, once lush with subtropical broadleaf forest, was left barren and vast seabird colonies were destroyed after the arrival of man.

But now there is new evidence that human beings may not have been responsible for the destruction after all. Although Easter Island has long been held to be the most important example of a traditional society destroying itself, it appears that the real culprits were rats - up to three million of them.

This contradicts the belief that the native population's obsession with carving, constructing, and transporting its famous statues around the island led it to deplete its own natural resources, going into what has been called "a downward spiral of cultural regression".



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