Major conservation effort seeks to protect endangered land and sea birds on the World Heritage Site

2019 Gough Island mouse eradication project announced

Report from John Kelly on 15th May 2018
RSPB Programme Manager for Globally Threatened Species
representing the Gough Steering Group

All going to plan, today marks one year until the Agulhas II leaves Cape Town for Gough Island on 15th May 2019 to start the mice eradication operation to protect endangered land and sea birds.

Kate Lawrence's photo shows the unique and beautiful Gough Island; the fern bush habitat on the lower slopes is home to Atlantic yellow-nosed albatrosses.

Introduction

Gough Island, in the middle of the South Atlantic, needs our urgent help. Every year over one million seabird chicks are killed, pushing some species towards extinction. The chicks are killed by an invasive non-native species of house mouse that was introduced to Gough by humans.

The RSPB and Tristan da Cunha Government have developed an ambitious programme of conservation action. In 2019 rodenticide bait will be spread across Gough Island, eradicating the mice and restoring Gough to its natural state. This action will prevent the deaths of defenceless chicks year after year, halting decline and allowing populations to bounce back.

Partners

Programme objectives

  • To prevent the extinction of the Critically Endangered Tristan albatross and Gough bunting
  • To restore Gough Island to its natural state, ensuring the island remains one of the world's most important seabird nesting sites, worthy of World Heritage Site status
  • To support Tristan da Cunha Island Council as custodians of Gough Island and ensure a lasting legacy for Tristan da Cunha, a British Overseas Territory.

Funders

 

 

Eradication operation

The solution is relatively straightforward, though the operation is logistically complex, mainly because of the island's remoteness, tough terrain, and harsh weather conditions. Using helicopters, highly experienced pilots will spread cereal bait pellets containing a small amount of proven rodenticide across the island. In difficult to reach areas bait will be spread by hand to ensure that every mouse encounters rodenticide pellets.

We are well-placed to carry out such an important and complex operation. The RSPB and our partners have years of island eradication experience to draw on.

The programme also involves some of the world’s leading experts in the field of rodent eradications who have been buoyed by the success of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project and the successful delivery of the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project. Both of these projects highlight that complex island restoration projects are achievable in difficult environments.

The operation is on track to go ahead in the Southern winter of 2019 (May-August).

Images from RSPB
show:

Left: Helicopter carrying bait station;
Below left:
Atlantic Yellow-Nosed Albatross with chick;
Below right: Pair of Tristan Albatross taking part in their courting display.

Both these species of albotross are presently attacked and killed by mice.

Finding Out More

A Gough website has been launched to help build awareness of the project and support fundraising efforts:
www.goughisland.com. Please share it with anyone you think would be interested.


The one year milestone is also being celebrated on our Facebook and Twitter pages today
– so if you don’t follow Gough already please take a second to look at @GoughIsland,
and share, like, retweet etc to help us build the support!


Also published is a new blog from team member Kate Lawrence, who is currently on Gough Island, to mark this milestone and remind us all why this operation is so important:
https://www.goughisland.com/blog/how-many-mice-does-it-take-to-kill-an-albatross