Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Removal of introduced Reindeer from a Southern Ocean island will help White-chinned Petrels

Reindeer Rangifer tarandus have been introduced to Kerguelen Island in the southern Indian Ocean, and also to South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)* in the South Atlantic, where they cause severe impacts to native vegetation.  On the latter island Reindeer are a threat to the burrow-nesting White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis by their trampling and denudation of vegetation, with most birds now occurring in areas free of Reindeer and rodents.

Darren Christie, writing in Alienshas looked in detail at the impact and management of Reindeer in the South Atlantic.

The paper's shortened abstract follows:

"South Georgia is a subantarctic island with a native flora that has evolved in the absence of grazing animals, and as a consequence copes poorly with grazing pressure.  Reindeer are a northern hemisphere species that were introduced by Norwegian whalers for subsistence to two discreet areas of South Georgia on three occasions between 1909-1925.  Combined, the areas occupied by reindeer equate to the largest snow free, and consequently most biologically productive, part of the island.  Subsequent to their introduction, the reindeer herds were managed through regular hunts.  Since the closure of the whaling stations in the 1960's no management of the herds has occurred, and as a consequence the herds have expanded substantially, to the point where nearly all available grazing habitat has been utilised.  The boundaries of these areas are limited by glaciers, which prevent the animals spread to the island as a whole.  Climate change and the consequent recession of glaciers, combined with the detrimental impact of reindeer on native vegetation, through overgrazing, trampling, soil erosion, loss of native biodiversity and increased distribution of introduced plants, has required that the management of the herds as a whole be discussed and decided upon as a matter of urgency."

In line with a broader policy of habitat restoration, which includes invasive plant eradication and support for an island-wide rodent eradication programme it was announced in February this year that that the island's Reindeer will be eradicated in line with responsible environmental management practices and following a stakeholder consultation based around a review of all published scientific literature pertaining to Reindeer on South Georgia (Islas Georgias del Sur)*.  Click here to access the management decision.

Reference:

Christie, D. 2011.  Introduced reindeer on South Georgia - their impact and management.  Aliens 31: 24-29.


White-chinned Petrels.  Photograph by Ben Phalan 

Aliens: The Invasive Species Bulletin is the Newsletter of the IUCN/SSC (World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission) Invasive Species Specialist Group.  All 31 issues (since 1995) of the newsletter are available gratis on-line.   The ISSG also has a Facebook Page.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 22 November 2011

*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.

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