Another essential step has been taken in the progress towards eradication of the alien House Mouse Mus musculus on Gough Island, home of the Critically Endangered and ACAP-listed Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena.
This morning a Bell 212 helicopter of Starlite Aviation flew Bell Laboratories’ inert non-toxic bait and a bait bucket supplied by Helicopters Otago Ltd in New Zealand ashore from the m.v. S.A. Agulhas II onto the helipad next to the South African weather station above Gough’s Transvaal Bay. After loading five sacks of bait into the bucket the helicopter, under the expert guidance of New Zealander pilot Peter Garden, took off and successfully spread bait over a pre-chosen section of vegetated coastal cliffs and also over a flattish area around the helipad.
The rest of the day was spent counting the numbers of bait pellets on a dozen rope descents on the cliffs by four trained rope access technicians led by Jan Bradley and along lines set up with string through Gough’s thick lowland vegetation of Island Trees Phylica arborea, Bog Ferns Blechnum palmiforme and Bracken Histiopteris incisa. A count was also made of the pellets that that landed on the helipad itself. All these data will now be used to inform the bait density that will be required to put every mouse at risk of being poisoned when the island eradication effort finally gets underway.
When that day comes the albatrosses and petrels of Gough will be able to breed unhampered from the predatory “killer” mice. Breeding success is expected to shoot up immediately and the island will then be on the way to a slow recovery. Looking forward to it!
A Tristan Albatross chick gets eaten alive by Gough's mice
Photograph by Ross Wanless
Click here for an earlier report on this year’s annual expedition to Gough.
Research on ACAP-listed species on the outer islands of Tristan da Cunha is funded by the UK's Overseas Territories Environment Programme and the Darwin Initiative Programme via the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and by the FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town. It is conducted with the support and approval of the Tristan Conservation Department and the logistic support of the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, on Gough Island, 17 June 2013