Maximizing our chance of success
Updated: Nov 9, 2018
At the RSPB, we have a passion to work for the best outcome for nature, and sometimes that means making difficult decisions to ensure we achieve the best results. With the ultimate goal of saving species firmly in our minds, we have decided to implement the Gough Island mouse eradication in 2020. This additional year of preparation is an opportunity to ensure that our planning will deliver the best possible conservation outcomes for Gough and its wildlife.
Restoring Gough Island
If you have been following the story of Gough Island, you will know of the plight of a number of threatened native birds, many of which only breed on Gough Island. The cause of the declines is invasive non-native mice, which eat the eggs and chicks of around 15 species of seabirds, and one native land-bird. The situation is so severe that the Critically Endangered Tristan albatross and the Critically Endangered endemic Gough bunting are likely to be driven to extinction by mice.
As a UK Overseas Territory and one of the most important seabird-breeding sites in the world, we cannot let this happen. With our partners on Tristan da Cunha we developed the Gough Island Restoration Programme; a major conservation action to prevent extinctions by eradicating invasive non-native mice from Gough.
To find out more about The Restoration please visit www.goughisland.com
Tristan albatross are one of the species most affected by mouse predation (J.Cleeland)
Why will the operation go ahead in 2020?
A combination of unexpected challenges this year have shown the Gough team’s ability and determination to achieve our goals. By going ahead with the operation in 2020, we will have sufficient time not only to ensure that we overcome those challenges, but to use the results to build stronger, more robust plans.
The operational window is between June and August of each year. June 2020 is the next earliest feasible date that we can carry out an eradication.
A successful operation will stop the current spiral of declines caused by mice in its tracks. However, the complexity of the operation cannot be underestimated. Preparation is the key to success with a project of this scale; by preparing for action in 2020, we are preparing for success.
How will we maximise use of this additional year?
To take full advantage of this opportunity, we have a plan of key areas that we will focus on during this time:
1. Avicultural work
To safeguard two of the islands endemic species during the operation we will house a proportion of them in temporary aviaries on Gough. Once the operation is complete, the released individuals will re-join the wild population, ready to thrive on the mouse-free island.
The aviaries will be purpose-built for each species and the conditions on Gough, based on a trial that was run on the island this year and guidance from expert aviculturalists. This is one of the most important elements of the operation, and with birds as our focus, we will use this additional time to perfect the design, materials, and approach to the birds’ care.
The Critically Endangered, endemic, Gough bunting will be one of the species housed in temporary aviaries during the operation (Kate Lawrence)
In the last six months, we have welcomed staff with invaluable experience to the Gough Island team. They bring knowledge and expertise from island restorations, including the successful Desecheo and South Georgia projects. It is the skills and experience of our team that will ensure that our plans are robust, and we will spend the next two years utilizing that knowledge for the benefit of Gough’s species. Again, this all plays its part in ensuring a successful operation.
There is a funding gap and Gough needs your support! As with all aspects of the operation, we are leaving nothing to chance, and that includes ensuring that we have the necessary funds to make this project a success.
Although there is a funding gap, we are incredibly proud of the support that we have seen for the birds of Gough Island and for the operation so far. Generous donations from individuals, trusts, foundations and governments have allowed us to confirm that the operation will go ahead, and given us the confidence that we will meet our target over the coming two years.
Restoring Gough remains a priority for the RSPB, and our commitment to delivering the operation and to securing the future of these species remains as strong as ever.
Thank you for all your support and we look forward to the year ahead!
If you have any questions about the project, please get in touch:
Twitter Acknowledgement The Gough Island Restoration Programme is being carried out by the RSPB in partnership with Tristan da Cunha, BirdLife South Africa and the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa. The programme is part-funded by the RSPB, the UK government, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other generous individuals and organisations. If you would like to support our efforts to save the Critically Endangered Tristan albatross and Gough bunting, please get in touch or you can donate using our online form