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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.

Rat Trap

Rat Trap.

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.

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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.

The model of the trap "tugimoa," which I ob tained on Funafuti (fig. 45) weighs a pound. The body of it consists of a barrel eighteen inches in length and two in dia meter, of soft white wood, probably Hernandia; at one end a chamber six inches deep is excavated, at the other the barrel is narrowed to a wedge and cut to a fork whose lower limb projects beyond the upper like a shark's tail. To each prong of the fork is separately bound the butt of a resilient wand, here termed the bow, of probably Rhizophora wood, twenty-eight in ches in length. About half way along the barrel a short cross-piece of wood is lashed as a stand. To prevent splitting, the barrel is again lashed with sinnet at the trap mouth. From the slender end of the bow descends a fine sinnet cord, here termed the bow-string. This bow-string is made fast to the bow about six inches from the end, but when in service is carried along to an inch from the end, and there made fast by a clove hitch; when not in use the bow is unstrung by slacking off and slipping down the clove hitch. There are two perforations, three-quarters of an inch apart, and one-eighth of an inch from the entrance, in the roof of the chamber; the bow-string is led in by one and out by the other, and then knotted to prevent withdrawal. Six inches from the barrel a slip of wood, the lever, two and a half inches long is tied to the bow-string. In the chamber roof, in the median line, there is also, at an inch from the entrance a sinnet loop inserted, and at two and a quarter inches from the entrance, is another perforation.
Fig. 45.

Fig. 45.

To operate the trap, a bait of coconut kernel is placed on the floor of the chamber, a wooden pin, thrust through the page 280fourth perforation, stands on this bait, the bow is bent down till the lever attached to the bow-string can be passed through the loop and rested on the pin-head, thus leaving enough slack of the bow-string bight to form a noose at the entrance of the chamber. The rat, to reach the bait (fig. 46) must put its neck through the noose, then pulling at the bait upsets the pin, which in turn slips the lever, which in turn releases the bow, drawing the noose tight on the rat.
Fig. 46.

Fig. 46.

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.