Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Three ACAP-listed species studied: annual Gough Island Expedition returns to Cape Town

After another successful management/research expedition to Gough Island in the South Atlantic, the combined Royal Society for the Protection of Birds/FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town team returns to Cape Town, South Africa this week.

Click here for more details of the expedition.

Research goals for three ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels on the island were all successfully achieved:

1.       A complete-island count was made of large chicks of the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena (click here).

2.      All Tristan Albatross chicks in the three long-term demographic study areas, Gonydale, Hummocks and Tafelkop, were banded before they go "walk-about" and get too far from their marker poles placed earlier at their original nests.  This study is now in its sixth year, although chicks have been banded annually in two of the study areas since the early 1980s, meaning that many of the currently breeding adults are of known age.

3.      Four- to five-daily checks were undertaken in the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos study site above Transvaal Bay, recording the colour codes of birds as they lay their eggs.  This study is now about to enter its fourth decade, having been started in the early 1980s.

4.      For the second year the newly-established demographic study site of Southern Giant Petrels Macronectes giganteus at the Low Hump colony was visited.  A five-hour strenuous hike uo and over the island's mountains from the meteorological station requires overnight camping to allow for sufficient time on site.  Most partners of 170 pairs of incubating birds were recorded over three visits.  The first eggs had started to hatch by 2 October during the last visit.

The Low Hump Southern Giant Petrel colony in 2010
Photograph by John Cooper

Two members of the expedition have remained on Gough to continue monitoring of these three species over a full year.  They are Karen Bourgeois and Silvain Dromzee from France.  They will also continue efforts to eradicate the introduced weed, Procumbent Pearlwort Sagina Transvaal Bay.

Research on ACAP-listed species on Gough Island is conducted jointly by the FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK, with support from the UK's Overseas Territories Environment Programme and with the approval of the Tristan Conservation Department.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 October 2011