Tristan da Cunha Conservation News 2005-2008
News about Tristan da Cunha's wildlife conservation 2005-2008

Killer Mice bring Albatross population closer to extinction

The RSPB published the following media release on Thursday 11th December 2008
The February 2009 Tristan da Cunha Newsletter will carry several conservation-related articles and recent images - to secure your copy and enjoy a special 'Credit Crunch' membership offer go to Tristan Association Shop for details

See also the Albatross Page

The Tristan albatross, one of the world's most threatened birds, has suffered its worst nesting season ever, according to RSPB research. The number of chicks making it through to fledging has decreased rapidly and it is now five times lower than it should be because introduced predatory mice are eating the chicks alive on Gough island - the bird's only home and a South Atlantic territory of the United Kingdom.

The mice are also affecting the Gough bunting – one of the world's largest finches – another species endemic to Gough Island . A recent survey of the bunting's population reveals that the population has halved within the last two decades. Now there are only an estimated 400-500 pairs left.

Despite the grave situation for both species on Gough Island , government funding to plan for and take forward the eradication of mice is still lacking. This is despite recognition from two prominent House of Commons' Committees that the "biodiversity found in the UK Overseas Territories is equally valuable and at a greater risk of loss" (than the UK ) and that current levels of funding are "grossly inadequate". Eradicating mice is the single action that would solve the primary conservation threat facing both species. Because of the impact from introduced house mice, both the Tristan albatross and the Gough bunting were listed earlier this year as Critically Endangered, by BirdLife International. This is the highest level of threat before extinction.

Richard Cuthbert is an RSPB scientist who has been researching the mice problem on Gough Island since 2000. Commenting on the latest results he said: "We've known for a long time that the mice were killing albatross chicks in huge numbers.  However, we now know that the albatrosses have suffered their worst year on record. "The mice do not affect the adult albatrosses, but we know from our work that these are being killed by longline fishing vessels at sea.  So, unsustainable numbers of this bird are being killed on land and at sea. Without conservation efforts, the Tristan albatross is doomed. We also know that the mice are predators on the eggs and chicks of the Gough bunting and mice predation is the main factor behind their recent decline.  We also suspect that the mice may compete with the buntings for food, especially during cold winters."

Collaborator Peter Ryan from the University of Cape Town 's Percy FitzPatrick Institute has been studying buntings at the island since the 1980s. He said "The decline in bunting numbers is alarming. Without urgent conservation action to remove the mice, both the albatross and the bunting are living on borrowed time."

A complete survey of the Tristan albatross on Gough Island in January showed there were 1764 adult albatrosses incubating eggs. A later survey revealed that only 246 chicks had survived to fledging.

Richard Cuthbert added: "While some breeding failures would have occurred naturally, the majority of these would have been killed by mice. Far higher numbers of winter-breeding burrowing petrels are also predated by mice. For example, we estimate that half a million Atlantic petrel chicks will have been eaten last winter."

The RSPB has been involved in a feasibility study to test whether it's possible to remove the mice. So far, the trials look promising, giving both birds a more optimistic future. Funding on this year's work on Gough has come from the Overseas Territory Environment Programme (OTEP).

Removing rats from seabird islands has been conducted in several parts of the world with great success, and the RSPB is working with New Zealand conservationists to tackle removal of the smaller mice. The procedure will involve dropping poisoned bait from helicopters.

Alistair Gammell is the RSPB's International Director. He said: "We are grateful to the Government for funding to allow us to assess the feasibility of removing mice. "It is essential that the Government commits adequate funding for the protection of the many threatened species found on the UK 's Overseas Territories .

Media release from RSPB on Thursday 11th December 2008
The February 2009 Tristan da Cunha Newsletter will carry several conservation-related articles and recent images - to secure your copy and enjoy a special 'Credit Crunch' membership offer go to Tristan Association Shop for details. See also the Albatross Page

Gough and Inaccessible Islands declared RAMSAR sites

The following announcement was made by DEFRA on 29th October 2008 :

DEFRA has announced two islands in the South Atlantic Ocean that will be added to RAMSAR List of Wetlands of International Importance. Gough Island and Inaccessible Island are home to millions of rare seabirds, a number of which such as the Gough bunting and Inaccessible rail are only found on the islands.
The Convention on Wetlands is an inter-governmental treaty signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. It aims to achieve sustainable development through the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international co-operation.

Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for Wildlife said:

"It is great to be able to add Gough Island and Inaccessible Island to the global list of wetlands of international importance. Some of the world's rarest species are found only on these islands, and designation of the islands and surrounding sea under the Ramsar Convention is recognition of their importance".

Problems faced by the environment in overseas territories are similar to those faced by all our wildlife, including the threats of climate change and invasive non-native species. Many of the species on these islands face their own uniquely challenging conservation issues. The islands are already covered by Environmental Charters between the UK Government and the Governments of UK Overseas Territories, and this is a positive message to the international community of the importance of these islands.

Island Cock found at The Patches

Iris Green reports that her family were out for a day's fishing while the children were on holiday on 3rd July. On return they saw a bird in the road by Daily's Hill. Martin stopped the car and caught it to take back to the Settlement.
The family had never seen one in the Patches area before, and daughter Rachel looked after it, feeding it worms and seeds, before showing it to school friends and later releasing it at Pigbite.

Photos above from Iris show, left Chloe and Rachel with the bird, and right a close up of the moorhen or Island Cock.

The Wildlife and Conservation section will soon be expanded to feature more of the Islands' unique wildlife.

Vagrant Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) Ashore at Tristan

A vagrant turtle was found on the beach west of Calshot Harbour on the morning of Tuesday 6th May 2008 by Joseph Green and Gary Repetto.

School Field Visit
Later pupils from St Mary's School visited the beach to view the turtle, and teacher Anne Green took these photos. which we are delighted to publish within a few hours.

Thanks to Sorin Cosoveanu from Romania, JW Kram from the Netherlands, Allan Wilson from Scotland and Susanna Musick from Ascension Island for confirmation that this is a Loggerhead Turtle.

Anne recalls a Leatherback Turtle being caught off Tristan a few years ago, and we look forward to publicising the next turtle ashore.

Susanna recommends this website link for further turtle identification information : www.adoptaseaturtle.org
Lyme Bay conservation visit
Karen Varnham, a consultant on rodent eradication sponsored by the RSPB arrived on the RFA Lyme bay on 28th February 2008. While joining the ship in Cape Town Karen was able to provide valuable support and advice in ensuring the Lyme Bay left Cape Town free of invasive and alien species which might have been inadvertently landed here thus posed a threat to Tristan's native flora and fauna.
 
Karen is here primarily to take forward work on plans to eradicate rodents from Tristan and Gough.  This involves consultation and briefing of the community as well as an explanation of what the project will mean to the island.  A full report on her visit will follow in due course.
 
Karen is pictured with Lt Commander Anthony Richards RN, Captain Paddy McAlpine RN and Troop Commander Tristan Wootten RE of Operation Zest.

Environmental education across territories
Visitors are invited to join the UKOTCF Pilot Discussion Forum,
to share environmental issues and concerns across UK Overseas Territories including the Tristan da Cunha Islands.

The organiser of the project, Ann Pienkowski aims to raise awareness and promote environmental education through an on-line discussion forum. Working with students in the Crown Dependency of Jersey, a version of the online discussion forum is ready for piloting, and Ann hopes that Tristan islanders and interested Association members or website visitors will take part.

Simply click on to www.ukotcfgroup.org/forums and have a go!

you will then be a part of this new web-based project to learn more about and promote awareness of the rich and diverse environment of the Tristan da Cunha Islands and other UK overseas territories.

John Cooper's Photographic Guide to 2007 Agulhas Trip Conservation Highlights

Some of St Mary's school children, with Anne Green, school teacher and former Chief Islander, proudly pose with their own copies of a Tristan Albatross poster, donated by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), which Tristan ratified in April 2006. The Tristan Albatross is endemic to the Tristan Group, with nearly its whole population breeding on Gough Island.

Photo: John Cooper.

See below for large version of the poster.

John Cooper, honorary Tristan Conservation Officer, presents a copy of a book on the natural history of Gough Island to outgoing Administrator, Mike Hentley, at the South African meteorological teams' takeover party on Gough in September 2007. The presentation was made to mark the many conservation initiatives that Mike Hentley has supported and seen through to completion during his period as Tristan's Administrator. Examples include the awarding of numerous OTEP (Overseas Territories Environment Programme) projects, ratification of the Albatross and Petrel Agreement (ACAP) and adoption of Tristan's new conservation ordinance.

Photo: Andrea Angel.

Left: The outgoing Tristan Administrator, Michael Hentley, with his wife Janice and John Cooper, honorary Tristan Conservation Officer, on the steps of Gough House next to the World Heritage plaque, September 2007. Photo: Andrea Angel.

Right: The September 2007 Sagina eradication team on Gough after another successful campaign. From left, Eugene Breytenbach, John Cooper, Andrea Angel and Matthew Munting. Photo: Andrea Angel

Left :
Matt Munting, a level-three rope-access technician, goes down the cliffs of Gough in search of the alien Sagina plant, September 2007.

Photo: Andrea Angel.

Right:
John Cooper dumping the alien plant Sagina, collected on Gough's coastal cliffs, at sea from the SA Agulhas half-way back to Cape Town.

Photo : Andrea Angel.

Left: Helicoptering boxed alien Sagina plants off Gough to the waiting SA Agulhas in September 2007.
Photo: John Cooper.
Right: Dumping Sagina at sea from the SA Agulhas halfway back to Cape Town . A total of 34 boxes of plants and attached soil was taken onto the ship, representing the collections of the three previous expeditions to eradicate this invasive alien plant from the island. Photo: John Cooper.

Brother takes over as Tristan's Conservation Officer

Trevor Glass has replaced his younger brother Simon as Tristan da Cunha's Conservation Officer. Trevor is photographed left with his young son Tristan on the occasion of his Christening on 1st July 2007.

Trevor reports that his conservation job is going really well. He is involved in several assignments, and he highlights three on-going current projects :

A particular concern is the control of loganberries at Sandy Point, which have grown throughout the apple and plum orchards and are extending up the cliffs towards the Base, which is lower in this part of the island and has many Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross nests. Trevor hopes to send tristandc.com photographs of this encroachment and work in progress to control it.

A Northern Rockhopper Penguin count is being organised on Nightingale and Middle Islands, the latter not done since the 1970s.

Trevor also plans a fur seal count on Tristan as their numbers are on the increase and a theory that they may be threatening rockhopper penguins will be tested.

Stunning New Tristan Albatross Poster
Tristan Voluntary Conservation Officer John Cooper has sent tristandc.com a copy of a new A2 poster jointly published by (ACAP) Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels and the (TANRD) Tristan Agricultural and Natural Resources Department, although the former footed the whole bill. Copies will be sent to Tristan with James Glass in August 2007 to give out to each school child with ACAP's compliments.

Invasive Species Capacity Building Project Underway

Invasive species have been recognised as a threat to biological diversity worldwide, and the threat is particularly severe for island states. In order to build regional capacity to deal with this issue, the European Commission's DG-Development has funded the South Atlantic Invasive Species Project, in which the Government of Tristan da Cunha is a partner. The project has now been running for almost six months, and is being implemented by RSPB.

 Work is ongoing to assess the status of invasive species in Tristan, and to set priorities for project activities over the next two years. Clare Miller, the project manager, has been visiting Tristan in April and May 2007 to get this process underway, working with the Tristan Agriculture and Natural Resources Department.

For more information on the project, please contact
Clare Miller : South Atlantic Project Manager, RSPB Email : clare.miller@rspb.org.uk .  

£75,000 Marine Environmental Grant Announced
Some more good news on the environmental front was received on 28th March 2007 as support from the UK Department of Environment's Darwin Initiative was announced. This will fund a marine bio diversity project, run in partnership with RSPB Global Programmes Officer Sarah Sanders, Marine Biologists Sue Scott and Cameron Hay, and Rob Anderson & John Bolton of the University of Cape Town.   The funding of some £75,000 spread over the next two financial years will finance underwater survey dives, particularly around Nightingale & Inaccessible. 
The additional data collected will help Tristanians manage their economically important fisheries sector in a sustainable way. A local diving team will also be trained in environmental monitoring of the Trypot Bay area where the stranded oil rig was removed earlier this year.
They will also be able to assist in planned work to refurbish and improve the ageing Calshot Harbour. Other benefits of the project will include more visual information on the colourful and atmospheric underwater life and scenery around the Islands.  A planned issue of postage stamps featuring local marine invertebrates is also eagerly awaited by collectors.

Ceremony to unveil World Heritage Plaque on Gough Island
Photographs from Honorary Conservation Officer John Cooper taken on 16th February 2007 at a ceremony on Gough Island to unveil a plaque to commemorate the designation of the Gough and Inaccessible Islands Nature Reserve as a World Heritage Site.
Photo shows the plaque covered by a Tristan flag prior to unveiling.

The new plaque situated at the entrance to the South African Weather Station on Gough Island.
Right to left - John Cooper (Tristan Honorary Conservation Officer), Brian Bowie (Leader, Gough Base Team), James Glass (Head of Tristan's Agriculture & Natural Resources Department) and Simon Glass (Tristan Conservation Officer).
The 6 Gough Base Team members (blue shirts),John Cooper with Justin Fiske, Marienne de Villiers & Andre Fourie who form the sagina eradication team, (right) and visitors from Tristan Trevor Glass, Rodney Green, James Glass and Simon Glass.
MV Edinburgh
departed on 28th January 2007 en route for Cape Town via Gough Island to drop off Tristan Conservation Officer Simon Glass and his colleague Matthew Green who together with
leader John Cooper, Justin Fiske, Marienne de Villiers & Andre Fourie form a team
continuing to eradicate sagina grass and study the Gough colony of the Tristan Albatross.
The teams were landed on Gough on the afternoon of Monday 29 January in good conditions.  They are currently due to be collected on or around 12 March when the Edinburgh passes via Gough on it's scheduled trip to Tristan then.

Thursday 9th February2006
Tristan da Cunha celebrates 500th Anniversary with new Environmental Protection Laws

Five hundred years after the discovery of the South Atlantic islands of Tristan Da Cunha, the unique wildlife of the UK Overseas Territory will receive greater protection, thanks to a new Conservation Ordinance. At a ceremony, on the 9th of February, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the islands' discovery, His Excellency the Governor of St Helena and Dependencies, Michael Clancy, presented the new ordinance to: Mr Mike Hentley, the islands' Administrator; Mrs Anne Green, the Chief Islander; and Mr James Glass, Head of the Tristan Natural Resources Department.
The author of the ordinance, John Cooper, of the University of Cape Town and a Tristan honorary conservation officer, said: "We hope this ordinance will take the environmental protection of Tristan da Cunha and its outlying islands into the first half of the new century: it really is a major achievement. Among many other matters, it results in the creation of seven new reserves for rockhopper penguins on the main island of Tristan. The Islanders should be proud of their conservation achievements that this new ordinance marks."
UK Bio diversity Minister Jim Knight said the new ordinance was good news for all of Tristan da Cunha's important wildlife, and particularly for three globally-threatened species of albatross. "The UK is determined to do everything we can to protect albatrosses throughout the world, both in our own territories and elsewhere. I am delighted that Tristan da Cunha has taken this important step and we will be working with them to ensure they can be included in ACAP as soon as possible. "The UK has been an instrumental partner in developing international efforts to protect and conserve albatrosses, and some UK's Overseas Territories, including Tristan da Cunha, are at the front line of the fight to save these magnificent birds."
Measuring just 178 square kilometres - less that half the size of the Isle of Wight - and described as the most remote inhabited place on earth, the territory contains ten species of bird found nowhere else in the world, including two species of albatross and the spectacled petrel, another seabird, which are all threatened with global extinction. Of the remaining seven endemic land birds, only the Tristan thrush is not considered to be in danger of extinction. Dr Geoff Hilton, an RSPB international biologist, said: "The albatrosses and petrels are falling victim to the longline fishing industry. The baited hooks of international fishing vessels are fatally attractive to these birds, which become hooked and drown in their thousands - an estimated 100,000 albatrosses, of 21 species, have been dying on longlines every year. Meanwhile on land, the rats and mice, inadvertently introduced by shipwrecks, over the years are preying on many of the birds, and other less noticeable wildlife." The new ordinance entitled 'Conservation of Native Organisms and Natural Habitats (Tristan da Cunha) Ordinance 2006' replaces a previous conservation ordinance drafted in 1976 by Sir Martin Holdgate and the late Dr Nigel Wace. Sir Martin attended the presentation ceremony on Tristan, and expressed his approval of the new ordinance, which he said 'is a great step forward for the Territory and for its human and animal inhabitants'. Sarah Sanders, the RSPB's UK Overseas Territories Officer, said: "The earlier ordinance served Tristan for over a quarter of a century but became increasingly inadequate as Tristan moved forward, accepting its responsibilities under international agreements, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)". Tristan da Cunha is now asking the UK Government that it be included within ACAP as soon as possible, and it is expected that this will take place by the time of the Second Session of ACAP's Meeting of the Parties, planned to be held in the second half of this year.


This is the text from a press release issued by RSPB, reporting on joint work of The Tristan Island Government and
and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, issued on 10th February 2006. tristandc.com's Wildlife and Conservation pages will be published in the coming months to add to this Conservation News Page. A full report and photographs will appear in the July Tristan da Cunha Newsletter.

Pull the other leg, its got snails on!
tristandc.com readers may have read recent worldwide news on 'hitch-hiking snails' travelling from mainland Europe via the Azores to the Tristan da Cunha Islands, transported by birds.
Tristan Association member Dr Richard Preece, from the Department of Zoology at Cambridge University, and a member of the 1982/3 Denstone Inaccessible Expedition is at the centre of research into the small hermaphrodite snail Balea which has at least eight species in the Tristan group. The small size of the snail and the fact that it secretes exceptionally sticky mucus (that could stick to bird's feathers), combined with its ability to reproduce without a mate, makes it likely that dispersal by 'hitch-hiking' on migratory birds to be the most likely explanation of their occurrence in the Tristan group. The huge genetic differences in the snails cannot have occurred in the 500 years since the discovery of the Tristan islands and rules out the possibility of human agency.
The research has been published in Journal Nature, Volume 439 on 26 January 2006, which can be consulted for further information (or listen to the free pod cast about this story via the Nature website). We aim to publish a full article on this high-flying topic in the July 2006 Newsletter.
In the meantime we leave readers with the $64,000 question : Which bird brought the snail?
The nature article reproduces an etching from Marcus Gheeraerts fable 'pride comes before a fall' showing an eagle carrying a giant garden snail.
Great Shearwaters breed exclusively in the Tristan da Cunha group and migrate to the western margins of Europe during the Austral winter, flying past the Azores in September - October, but they are not thought to land ashore except to breed and snails cannot survive immersion in sea-water, so are thought to be washed off or drowned as these birds dive for food.
Skuas move between islands to scavenge for food, (birds such as these must be responsible for transporting snails between the islands) but are there Skua species that move between North and South Atlantic?
Vagrant land birds are common on Tristan da Cunha, but most originate from South America or Southern Africa which do not have Balea species. Perhaps it was an extinct species of bird - or can we identify a carrier based on existing bird movements?
So tristandc.com invites sleuths worldwide to contribute to the great debate - How did the snail cross the ocean?
Link to the Nature Website - www.nature.com/bca
Thanks to Richard Preece for his communication and help with this article.

New Conservation Officer Simon Glass
Simon Glass was appointed Conservation Officer in the Natural Resources Department on the 20th September 2005. The purpose of his job is to conserve the bio diversity of the Tristan Islands through the Tristan Bio diversity Action Plan. His main duties are to develop and manage projects, and assist with existing monitoring programmes for seabird and seal habitats.
Simon will also develop monitoring programmes for other marine life and plants. He works with visiting scientists on projects where specific conservation problems have been identified, and help to develop research projects in conjunction with other organisations.The job also involves informing visitors about the wildlife of the Tristan Island group during wildlife tours around the islands. 
2005 Photograph of Simon Glass with fieldworker Matthew Green on the Tristan mountain base with The Peak behind.

OTEP-Funded Rat Eradication Feasibility Project holds successful workshop on Robben Island, South Africa
Historic Robben Island in Table Bay, South Africa was visited over two days on 13/14 October by the management team of the Tristan/Gough Rodent Eradication Project funded by the Overseas Territories Environmental Programme (OTEP). The workshop was led by Geoff Hilton, assisted by Sarah Sanders, both of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and was attended by Gough field researchers and honorary Tristan Conservation Officers (John Cooper & Peter Ryan) based at the University of Cape Town, as well as by Anne (Chief Islander) and Joseph Green and Mike Hentley, Tristan Administrator.
The workshop heard a report from Derek Brown, New Zealand rodent eradication expert, who had just returned from Tristan where he had assessed the rodent situation. Based on his positive report, it was decided to move towards the next stage in the project: the production of a costed operational plan for the eradication of Tristan rats by aerial baiting. It was also agreed that a site visit by an expert was still required for Gough Island, before eradication of the island's "killer" mice could be planned. It is intended for this to take place in 2006. In the meantime two new OTEP-funded researchers have arrived on Gough via the SA Agulhas for a year to study the mice in detail to gain needed information on diet and density for planning purposes.
Report submitted by John Cooper - more details in the January 2006 Newsletter

25th July News Stories- 'super mice attack albatross chicks on Gough Island'
The shocking film, text and press photographs speak for themselves : large mice are a threat to seabirds on Gough Island. What we can confirm, is that the £220,000 grant announced on this website on 6th April, featured below, covers a feasibility study to eliminate mice on Gough and rats and mice on Tristan da Cunha. The Tristan da Cunha Government welcomes worldwide support in achieving these important objectives to secure the future for the unique range of sea birds on the two largest islands of the Tristan group.
Readers may also like to know that Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands are free of rats and mice thanks to the strict adherence to conservation guidelines introduced for all visits to these islands by the Tristan community.
The Tristan da Cunha Islands are a harsh environment, marginal for both wildlife and the unique human community who have survived and flourished on the main island despite formidable obstacles. Readers moved to want to help may like to join the Tristan Association today (see Membership Page) and receive the September Newsletter which is a bumper 16 page full-colour publication
.
We publish below the full text of the RSPB Media Release on which all the TV and Press stories were based :
Metre-high seabird chicks being eaten alive by mice - Millions killed on UK bird colony
Super size mice on a British Island are eating seabird chicks alive. The house mice, three times the size of those in the UK , attack at night and are devouring more than a million petrel, shearwater and albatross chicks on Gough Island every year.
The island, a world heritage site in the South Atlantic , is the most important seabird colony in the world hosting more than ten million birds. It is one of the Tristan da Cunha group of islands – a UK Overseas Territory.
Dr Geoff Hilton , a Senior Research Biologist at the RSPB said: “ Gough Island hosts an astonishing community of seabirds and this catastrophe could make many extinct within decades. We think there are about 700,000 mice, which have somehow learnt to eat chicks alive – much like blue tits learnt to peck milk bottle tops.
“The albatross chicks weigh up to ten kilograms and ironically, albatrosses evolved to nest on Gough because it had no mammal predators – that is why they are so vulnerable. The mice weigh just 35 grams; it is like a tabby cat attacking a hippopotamus.”
Gough Island is the most southerly of the Tristan da Cunha group. There are 22 bird species nesting on the island of which 20 are seabirds.
The island hosts 99 per cent of the world’s Tristan albatross and Atlantic petrel populations – the birds most often attacked. Just 2,000 Tristan albatross pairs remain.
The predatory behaviour of the mice was suspected then confirmed by Dr Richard Cuthbert , a RSPB researcher, and Ross Wanless, a PhD student from the University of Cape Town’s Percy FitzPatrick Institute. Ross Wanless recorded dramatic video footage of the attacks last year.
“The albatross chicks spend eight months sitting waiting for food from their parents,” Dr Cuthbert said. “They are nearly a metre tall and 250 times the weight of the mice but are largely immobile and cannot defend themselves. Without predators this would not be a problem but for a carnivorous mouse population on one of the wettest and windiest places on earth it is an easy meal of almost unimaginable quality. The result is carnage.”
Ross Wanless said: “There are mice on other South Atlantic islands but Gough is the only site where this is known to be happening. Once one mouse has attacked a chick, the blood seems to attract others. They gnaw into the chick’s body, create a gaping wound and the chick weakens then dies over several days.”
Scientists suspect that the mice are also eating the eggs and chicks of the rare, ground-nesting Gough bunting, a small finch found no-where else in the world. Researchers think the finch has been forced from the best nesting sites into less suitable upland areas. “This species is one of the most worrying because there is no other population in the world,” Dr Hilton said.
The Gough mouse is one of 2,900 non-native species damaging native wildlife on the 17 UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, a review by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) has found.
Dr Vin Fleming , Head of International Unit at the JNCC said: “Non-native species are a major cause of the loss of bio diversity globally and their impacts are especially severe on island ecosystems typical of our Overseas Territories .”
The RSPB has been awarded £62,000 by the UK government’s Overseas Territories Environment Programme to fund additional research on the Gough Island mice and a feasibility study of how best to deal with them. The grant will also pay for the assessment of a rat problem on Tristan Island , also a UK Overseas Territory, that unlike Gough has a human population and therefore pets and livestock as well.

Media Release from the RSPB released 25th July 2005