Gough Island Gough Island

Photo: Chris Jones

Often compared to Jurassic Park by its few lucky visitors, Gough Island is a remote, uninhabited island in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, in the South Atlantic, more than 1,500 miles from Cape Town. Being so far from disturbance makes Gough an idyllic nesting ground, and it is relied upon by millions of the world’s most unique seabirds who breed nowhere else. Its importance for threatened species and sites of outstanding universal value earned Gough World Heritage Site status in 1995 and Important Bird Area status in 2013.

The Problem

However, invasive non-native species are driving an environmental catastrophe on Gough Island. Mice, which are not naturally found on the island, were accidentally introduced by sailors during the 19th Century and after populating the island soon begun to exploit all available food sources – including birds. They have now evolved to 50% larger than their ancestral relatives making it easier for them to attack larger species. Video cameras alongside nests reveal how the mice eat the flesh of seabird chicks. Tristan albatross chicks weigh up to 10kg, but open wounds inflicted over successive nights frequently lead to their deaths. Mice have even started to attack adult seabirds; the first evidence of this was recorded in 2018.

A Tristan Albatross Chick

Photo: Michelle Jones

Two of Gough’s unique bird species are now Critically Endangered, and a further four are classified as Endangered and heading ever closer to extinction.

There is a strong case for action on both welfare and conservation grounds.

The Solution

The urgency for action continues to grow but there is a solution and help for Gough’s seabirds is on the way!

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, eradicating the invasive non-native mice.

Photo: Michelle Jones

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 projects highlight that complex island restoration projects are achievable in difficult environments.

Photo: Michelle Jones

 

The operation is on track to go ahead in the Southern winter of 2020.

Support Gough Island

The Gough Island Restoration is a globally important partnership programme – partner and funder support is vital! Thanks to generous donations from individuals and funders we have raised over £5 million.

Photo: Michelle Jones

 

However, there is a funding gap and support is still urgently needed! To equip this major operation for success in 2020 we are urgently seeking a further £2 million. This money will be used to purchase final pieces of equipment, including bait and specialist aviculture facilities, and to secure highly experienced staff and helicopter contracts.

If you would like to help us raise the final funds to secure the future of Gough Island please donate via the RSPB, or visit our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter.

Alternatively, please get in touch to discuss funding and partnership opportunities:

Email: [email protected]

Photo: Michelle Jones