ACAP Latest News

Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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An eight-kilometre fence protects threatened Hawaiian Petrels on Mauna Loa

The Vulnerable Hawaiian Petrel Pterodroma sandwichensis is endemic to the high Hawaiian islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai and Maui in the north Pacific.  The “big island” of Hawaii supports a small breeding population of around 75 pairs at high altitude on the volcanic peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.  These birds are at risk to feral cats Felis catus, despite the barren nature of the environment in which they breed in holes and crevices in lava fields.

Hawaiian Petrel, photograph by Andre Raine

To protect the Mauna Loa population an eight-kilometre long cat-proof fence, the largest in the United States, has been built by the National Park Service that encompasses 600 acres (245 ha) to keep the cats out.  Construction commenced in 2013 outside the breeding season and has now been completed.

“The specifically designed barrier is more than six feet [1.8 m] high, and has a curved top section that prevents cats from climbing over it.”

Watch a six-minute video on the Hawaiian Petrels breeding on Mauna Loa.

View videos on the fence construction:

See also:

It remains to be seen whether the protected Hawaiian Petrels in the absence of feral cats will be deleteriously affected by alien rodents, to which the new fence presumably will not be a barrier.  Rodents have been recorded in the diet of feral cats on Mauna Loa (click here).

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 17 November 2016s

Dogs to search for rodents on South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur) after five years of eradication effort

The latest issue (No. 28 November 2016) of Project News, the Newsletter of the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project is now available.  For the last half a decade ACAP Latest News has been reporting regularly on the efforts to rid South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* of its introduced rats and mice (click here).  The three-phased eradication exercise was completed two austral summers ago and now the task this summer as Phase Four is to assess whether all the rodents are finally gone.

South Georgia looms behind an offshore island, photograph by Sally Poncet

So far no signs of rodents have been seen since the last poison bait drop in March 2015 and reports are now regular on the return to the island of affected birds, such as the endemic South Georgia Pipit Anthus antarcticus and Wilson’s Storm Petrel Oceanites oceanicus, as reported by Project Director, Tony Martin in the South Georgia Heritage Trust’s Project News.

Three New Zealand-trained detection terriers, along with their two handlers, will travel to the island to sniff out rodent sign this summer.  Tony writes “the ultimate rodent detection device is a moist nose on the front end of a highly trained dog”.  Let’s hope the dogs will find nothing and the World’s largest island eradication project can be finally proclaimed a success.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 16 November 2016

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

Another opportunity to volunteer on a shearwater island, this time in the Seychelles

The Island Conservation Society (ICS) is seeking volunteers for three- to six-month positions in the Aride Island Nature Reserve, Seychelles.  Aride Island is the home of breeding tropical seabirds, including TropicalPuffinus bailloni and Wedge-tailedPuffinus pacificus Shearwaters (click here).

Tropical Shearwaters

Volunteers should ideally possess a degree in a biological sciences and/or useful practical skills or IT skills plus a good level of fitness and the ability to swim.  ICS will contribute UK£ 375 towards international flights and provide free accommodation on 68-ha Aride.  Volunteers will be responsible for their own living expenses on the island.

Apply via the Aride volunteer application form.  Also available: Information for Aride volunteers.

The island is managed as a nature reserve by ICS.  The island’s only inhabitants are the reserve's staff, including the Island Manager, Conservation Officer and rangers.  The Society promotes the conservation and restoration of island ecosystems, sustainable development of islands, and awareness of their vulnerability and vital importance to the planet's biodiversity.

“Please consider that work on Aride can be extremely strenuous, the climate is hot and humid and you are isolated on a small island with only basic first aid”

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 November 2016

Job opportunity in the Med: a project warden is required to monitor Vulnerable Yelkouan Shearwaters in Malta

Paulo Lago. Project Manager of the LIFE Arcipela Garnija Project “Securing the Maltese islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan writes to ACAP Latest News with a job offer with BirdLife Malta.

BirdLife Malta is looking for a full-time Project Warden to join its international team in the LIFE Arcipelagu Garnija Project to carry out a range of seabird monitoring and wardening duties at Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan breeding sites in the Maltese islands.

Yelkouan Shearwater, photograph by Alex Ollie 

The Vulnerable Yelkouan Shearwater is a potential candidate for ACAP listing.

BirdLife Malta’s LIFE Arċipelagu Garnija project aims at securing the Maltese Islands for the Yelkouan Shearwater, of where approximately 10% of the species’ global population can be found.  Protection of this local population is important on the global scale, especially with the drastic declines Yelkouan Shearwaters have been facing over the last decades.”

Applications consisting of a cover letter and a CV may be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Deadline for applications is 7 December 2016.

Click here for more information.

With thanks to Paulo Lago for information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 15 November 2016

Creating an olfactory trap: do procellariiform seabirds sniff out plastics at sea?

Matthew Savoca (Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior, University of California, Davis, USA) and colleagues have published on-line and open access in the journal Science Advances on whether procellariform seabirds are attracted to plastic debris at sea by smell as well as by sight.

The paper’s abstract follows:

“Plastic debris is ingested by hundreds of species of organisms, from zooplankton to baleen whales, but how such a diversity of consumers can mistake plastic for their natural prey is largely unknown.   The sensory mechanisms underlying plastic detection and consumption have rarely been examined within the context of sensory signals driving marine food web dynamics.  We demonstrate experimentally that marine-seasoned microplastics produce a dimethyl sulfide (DMS) signature that is also a keystone odorant for natural trophic interactions.  We further demonstrate a positive relationship between DMS responsiveness and plastic ingestion frequency using procellariiform seabirds as a model taxonomic group.  Together, these results suggest that plastic debris emits the scent of a marine infochemical, creating an olfactory trap for susceptible marine wildlife.”

Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, photograph by Aleks Terauds

Read more here.


Savoca, M.S., Wohlfeil, M.E., Ebeler, S.E. & Nevitt, G.A. 2016.  Marine plastic debris emits a keystone infochemical for olfactory foraging seabirds.  Science Advances 2(11)  DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600395.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 November 2016

The Agreement on the
Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

ACAP is a multilateral agreement which seeks to conserve listed albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters by coordinating international activity to mitigate known threats to their populations.

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