2014 Conservation Work on Gough Island
Edited from a report on the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels Website www.acap with permission from ACAP’s Information Officer John Cooper who unusually will not take part in this year’s Gough expedition as he is attending ACAP meetings in Uruguay.
Another group of marine ornithologists are travelling to Gough Island to conduct research on its threatened populations of albatrosses and petrels. This year’s expedition sailed from Cape Town on 4th September on South Africa’s Antarctic research and supply vessel, MV SA Agulhas II.
As in previous years, seabird research and monitoring on Gough will concentrate on globally threatened species, including the near-endemic and Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, the Endangered Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos and the Endangered Sooty Albatross Phoebastria fusca. All three ACAP-listed species face fatal attacks on their chicks by Gough’s “killer” House Mice Mus musculus). Research will also take place on the two other ACAP-listed species that breed on Gough: the Southern Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus (Least Concern) and the Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea (Near Threatened).
Three field assistants on the expedition will remain on Gough until October 2015, residing in South Africa’s weather station on the island: Christopher Jones, Werner Kuntz and Michelle Risi. They will continue monitoring of albatrosses and petrels during their stay, as well as continuing with alien plant control in the vicinity of the weather station. Two field assistants, Delia Davis and Ben Dilley, who have spent a year on the island will return with the ship next month.
The ornithological component of the expedition is being led by Peter Ryan, Director of the University of Cape Town’s FitzPatrick Institute, with financial and logistic support from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and National Science Foundation via the South African National Antarctic Programme, the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and the Tristan Conservation Department (TCD).
In addition an aerial photographic survey by South African helicopter of Gough’s population of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses is planned in September by Alex Bond of the RSPB’s new Centre for Conservation Science with financial support from the UK’s Darwin Initiative and ACAP. This will be the first-ever such survey, also planned for the main island of Tristan da Cunha, filling, if successful, a noticeable gap in the knowledge of the population size of this species, endemic to the Tristan islands. Alex and Trevor Glass, Head of the TCD, will join the expedition once the ship arrives at Tristan on its way to Gough.