The Atoll of Funafuti, Ellice group : its zoology, botany, ethnology and general structure based on collections made by Charles Hedley of the Australian Museum, Sydney, N.S.W.
Before the advent of Europeans, and the introduction of the cat, the natives were greatly plagued by swarms of the Pacific Rat, Mus exulans. From time to time, when the pest grew beyond endurance, it was the custom of the king to order that at a given time each villager should bring to him a tale of say a hundred rats. For their destruction an ingenious trap was employed which has now disappeared, but which I am enabled to study through a model made for me by one of the oldest inhabitants. In obedience to the order, the rat traps would be repaired and set, every man, woman, and child taking charge of one or more.page 279
These periodical battues were a source of great amusement, none went to sleep till his or her score was complete, for from the trap of any one caught napping the rats were merrily picked.
I have not found a description of a trap from Polynesia answering to this, though it is mentioned by the Rev. R. Taylor that in New Zealand the rat "was formerly so numerous as to form a considerable article of food; it was taken by an ingenious kind of trap, which somewhat resembles ours for the mole."* I am, however, informed by Mrs. Pratt, the widow of the well-known philologist, and by the Rev. George Brown that a trap like that figured above was in common use in Samoa; while Mr. J. S. Gardiner tells me that he observed it both in Rotumah and in Fiji. In these localities the barrel of Hernandia wood was replaced by a length of bamboo, one joint of which formed the chamber. This information suggests that as the bamboo did not exist on the Ellice it was perforce copied in wood. Some approach to the principle of it is made by the mole trap still used in the rural districts of England.
* Taylor—New Zealand and its Inhabitants, 1870, p. 496.