Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Tristan Albatross now Critically Endangered – but help on the horizon?

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The Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena, an ACAP-listed species endemic to the Tristan da Cunha Group in the South Atlantic, has been recategorized as Critically Endangered by BirdLife International on behalf of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). For details of this decision go to www.birdlife.org/action/science/species/index.html

This recategorization is due to the continued predation of chicks by the introduced House Mouse Mus musculus on Gough Island, the species’ main breeding site in the group, as well as longline mortality at sea in the South Atlantic Ocean. Since 2001 when intensive studies of the species commenced, strong evidence of attacks by mice has been recorded in all six years of detailed observations, including this year, showing that the phenomenon is a regular and ongoing one.

With funding from the UK Government’s Overseas Territories Conservation Programme (www.ukotcf.org/OTEP/index.htm) and with the support of the Tristan Government’s Agriculture & Natural Resources Department (http://www.tristandc.com/wildlife.php), the feasibility of eradicating rodents on Gough Island has been assessed, following a site visit by John Parkes of Landcare, New Zealand in September 2007. This assessment forms part of a larger project investigating the feasibility of eradicating rodents in the Tristan da Cunha Group. For more information and to view the various reports of the project go to: (http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/projects/tristandacunha/index.asp).

Following the Parkes Report, the Island Council of Tristan da Cunha (its governing body) has recently agreed to support the eradication of Gough’s mice. However, the report deems it first necessary to undertake more research on the mice to remove key areas of uncertainty before an eradication exercise is undertaken.. This is because no island the size of Gough has ever been rid of House Mice by aerial poisoning, and there is also concern whether a bait drop will place all the mice at risk, given the large number of caves and generally rugged nature of the island with its many incised valleys and coastal cliffs.

This new research will commence in September 2008 and run until March 2010, funded by a new OTEP project entitled “Control of alien mice and plants at the Gough Island World Heritage Site”.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, with information supplied by Kholekile Cita, Richard Cuthbert, Geoff Hilton, Peter Ryan and Ross Wanless.

Posted 20 May 2008