The Gough Restoration Programme aims to eradicate the invasive mice on Gough Island that are predating albatross and other wild bird chicks.

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RSPB logo The RSPB and Tristan Government are undertaking an ambitious programme of conservation action to restore Gough Island by eradicating the invasive non-native mice that are killing the island's unique seabirds. Tristan da Cunha flag

Tragic scene on Gough Island as adult albatross killed by mice

First confirmed death of adult Tristan albatross due to mice attack.
News comes as Gough Island Restoration Project progresses aiming to eliminate alien mice from the island.
Report and images from the RSPB

Aerial view of Gough Island (Chris Jones)

  • An adult Tristan albatross has been eaten alive by invasive mice, leaving her chick at risk from the mice and starvation. This is the first conclusive evidence that mice kill adults of the species.
  • Tristan albatrosses are on the brink of extinction due in large part to invasive mice on their breeding ground, Gough Island.
  • The RSPB will begin a mouse eradication project to save the Tristan albatross and other endangered and threatened birds next month.

The first-known adult Tristan albatross known to have been killed by house mice (Peter Ryan)

For the first time on record a Critically Endangered Tristan albatross adult has been eaten alive by invasive non-native house mice. About a third of Tristan albatross chicks are eaten by the introduced mice each year on Gough Island, a UK Overseas Territory island and World Heritage Site in the South Atlantic 2,600km away from the nearest land mass of South Africa. Only two to three pairs of Tristan albatross breed anywhere else on Earth. The mouse predation, and the threat of unsafe fishing practices, has placed them in danger of extinction.

Despite her deep wounds the female adult still guards its chick (Peter Ryan)

This adult was on Gough Island, Tristan albatrosses’ main breeding ground and one of the most remote islands in the world, raising a chick with her mate. She was one of the most experienced mothers on the island and the father must now struggle to feed the chick alone - leaving it at risk not only of starvation but also at greater risk of being eaten by the mice.

The female's body was later found a little way from the nest (Roelf Daling)

Kim Stevens, RSPB Senior Field Assistant, said: "To see a parent killed in this way, and her chick in such danger, is devastating. Albatrosses are stunning, long-lived birds that spend much of their lives soaring over the oceans, and they need safe places to feed and raise their young. This albatross was ringed when she herself was a chick back in 1986 so we have lost one of our oldest known, most experienced mothers."

The male parent takes over duties at the nest with the blurred white image of the carcass of its female partrner being consumed by Tristan skuas in the background (Roelf Daling)
Will the chick survive now that only one parent lives?

The death of each breeding Tristan albatross is a devastating loss because they don’t start breeding until they’re about ten years old. It then takes two parents about a year to raise one chick. With only one parent providing food it might take the chick months longer to fledge and is likely to leave it in a weaker state, multiplying the threat from the mice and making it less likely to survive at sea.

It is most likely that sailors in the 19th century accidentally introduced mice to Gough Island. The mice have since adapted to feed on the seabirds, who evolved without the threat of land mammals and so don’t have any natural defences against them. We now know that even the adult Tristan albatross, one of the largest seabirds in the world with a wingspan of over 10 feet, will sit there defenceless as it’s slowly eaten alive. The mice threaten the future of the estimated eight million breeding birds who live on Gough.

This year the RSPB is launching a mission to eradicate every single mouse on the island and make it a seabird paradise once again. The project was originally scheduled to go ahead in 2020, but the coronavirus outbreak meant the RSPB and the Tristan da Cunha government had to abandon these ambitious plans and airlift the team home. With the delays the project now has a significant funding deficit.

Defra Minister for Biosecurity Lord Gardiner said: "The UK is a proud custodian of 14 Overseas Territories which hold over 90% of the UK’s wildlife, and it is our responsibility to rise to the challenge of protecting the species within our care.

"The sad news that we have now lost an adult albatross for the first time is a timely reminder of the global threat of invasive non-native species to wildlife, which is why it is so important that the Government is contributing towards this ambitious project led by the RSPB to save one of the world’s greatest seabird colonies."

People can donate directly to the restoration project to save the Tristan albatross and the other birds on Gough Island at https://www.rspb.org.uk/join-and-donate/donate/appeals/gough-island/.

SV Urchin Returns from Gough Island

The yacht SV Urchin stopped at Tristan on 27th March 2021 on its way back home from Gough Island.
30-Mar-2021
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Yacht SV Urchin Calls at Tristan on the Way to Gough Island

Report compiled from social media. Photos from Fiona Kilpatrick and Sally Wonner

SV Urchin Calls at Tristan

In the early morning of Friday 19th March 2021, the SV Urchin (Urchin Sailing Expeditions) arrived off at Tristan da Cunha, having left Cape Town on 8 March 2021. The yacht stopped to pick up the Tristan islanders who will be working with the Gough Island Restoration Programme, and arrived at Gough on Sunday 21st March.

SV Urchin with the settlement in the background

SV Urchin anchored off the Edinburgh of the Seven Seas

The crew came ashore for some sightseeing - the Patches, the settlement and the gift shop - before enjoying a wonderful lunch at the Residency with the co-Admins, Fiona Kilpatrick and Steve Townsend. After a visit to the volcanic peak left from the 1961 eruption, they were taken back down to the harbour. Fiona said, "It was great to see them all, and then send them on their way to Gough. Tristan is proud to be part of this incredible partnership."

The crew from the SV Urchin being brought into Calshot Harbour in the Conservation RIB

The crew from the Urchin being brought into Calshot Harbour in the Conservation RIB

SV Urchin's crew at the Residency with their banner, the Administrator and Tristan Conservation team

The Urchin's crew at the Residency with their banner, the Administrator and Tristan team members

Chief Islander, James Glass, Simon Glass and Matthew Green boarded the Urchin with all of their expedition equipment and gear. This will see them through the next three months on Gough, where they will observe the intricate processes that the Gough Island Restoration Team will go through. This incredibly well organised effort to eradicate the mice from the island is for the benefit of the pelagic bird colonies that nest and breed there.

Tristan conservation team and their gear loaded into the RIB to join SV Urchin on their way to Gough

Tristan conservation team and their gear loaded into the RIB to join Urchin on their way to Gough

Tristan conservation team depart the harbour in perfect conditions.

Tristan conservation team depart the harbour in perfect conditions.

The Urchin's voyage is the third to deliver members of the Restoration Team to Gough. Tristan da Cunha is the custodian of Gough Island, on whose behalf the RSPB is leading the implementation of the mouse eradication. The RSPB are delighted to welcome two Tristanians to the project delivery team, and the Chief Islander, James Glass, in his capacity as Environmental Observer.

Second Restoration Team Sails to Gough Island

The yacht Pelagic Australis has delivered second Gough Restoration Programme team from Cape Town to Gough Island.
19-Mar-2021
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Gough Restoration Programme 2021 Start

The postponed restoration programme has resumed in 2021 with the first team members arriving at Gough Island.
13-Feb-2021
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RSPB announce programme to go ahead in 2021

Long-awaited project to eliminate seabird-eating invasive mice ready to go.
25-Nov-2020
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Gough Island focus in Island Restoration News

October 2020 magazine available for download
9-Nov-2020
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RSPB Team depart Gough Island

Biologists report on their work on the World Heritage island
27-Oct-2020
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2020 SA Agulhas II Voyage

The SA Agulhas II returned to Tristan on the 11th October 2020 to pick up passengers during return leg of its annual relief voyage to Gough Island.
15-Oct-2020
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Gough Restoration Project to resume in 2021

Announcement from RSPB
19-Sep-2020
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Gough project team members return home by sea and air

Tricky return journeys via Ascension Island and Cape Town
29-Apr-2020
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Gough Restoration Project postponed due to coronavirus fears

Embryo team on Gough to return later in the year
18-Mar-2020
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Gough Restoration Project Update

Project team starts work
9-Mar-2020
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Gough Restoration Team arrives at the island

Yacht Evohe trip gets the 2020 project properly underway
8-Mar-2020
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FOTBOT raises money for Gough Island Restoration

Friends of the British Overseas Territories' main 2019/2020 fundraising campaign
10-Dec-2019
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2020 Gough Project in the Spotlight

RSPB event showcases Gough Island mice eradication plan
1-Nov-2019
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Gough Island Restoration Programme Update

July 2019 Newsletter available for download
5-Sep-2019
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First evidence of mouse attacks on Gough adult albatrosses

Paper published following 2018 fieldwork
9-Jan-2019
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Two million seabirds killed annually by mice on Gough Island

2018 research provides further evidence to support Gough Restoration Programme
23-Oct-2018
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Web Pages Launched for the Gough Island Restoration Programme

The RSPB recently launched a website outlining its role in the Gough Island Restoration Programme.
23-Sep-2018
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Gough Island Mice Eradication Project to take place in 2020

Tristan Government and RSPB agree a one year delay to properly organise major conservation project
23-Aug-2018
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2019 Gough Island mouse eradication project announced

Major conservation effort seeks to protect endangered land and sea birds on the World Heritage Site
16-May-2018
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