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News Update: Mouse found on Gough

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

Today, Tuesday 14 December, the Gough Island Restoration Team is devastated to report that following the mouse eradication attempt earlier this year, a single mouse has been spotted via monitoring equipment on the island.

We are deeply upset by this news and know that the many people who supported us in our endeavour to restore the island will be equally saddened. It matters because the removal of every mouse from Gough Island was necessary to prevent the loss of more than 2 million seabird chicks and eggs each year and to protect endangered species like the Tristan albatross from extinction.

Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said: “This was one of the most ambitious island restoration programmes ever attempted, bringing together experts from around the world to protect globally endangered seabirds in what many would consider one of the most remote and difficult to reach locations on Earth. With over a decade of planning and given the logistics involved, this has been the conservation equivalent of landing on the Moon.

“We needed to take this urgent action to save millions of eggs and chicks from predation, prevent extinctions and to undo the damage caused by mice which humans unwittingly allowed onto the island in the past. We are confident that through this partnership we put everything in place to give the project the best chance of being successful. Although only one mouse has been sighted so far, unfortunately experience would tell us that it is unlikely to be the only one.

“Although it appears we have fallen short of our target, it is too early to know what this means or just how much time we might have bought the seabirds of Gough. We are continuing to monitor the island and assess the situation. The situation at Gough and threat to the unique seabirds of this island only serve to underline the importance of effective biosecurity measures on currently predator-free islands to prevent invasive species arriving in the first place and devastating native wildlife, and the need for island restoration projects to protect affected species from extinction.”

Mouse captured on camera on Gough in December 2021

Since we reported the camera trap footage of a mouse on Gough in mid-December, our team on island has been running a targeted monitoring and response operation to assess the extent of mouse presence across a range of locations and intercept any individuals identified. This work remains ongoing. The team has unfortunately caught a further four mice in two other locations. These records of multiple mice mean that the Gough Island Restoration Programme has not been successful in its primary objective to eradicate every single mouse from Gough, although it will bring some respite from the immense predation pressure experienced by the birds there. At this stage, our focus is on trying to gather as much information as possible as to how widespread mouse survival may be on the island, and across which habitats and elevations. This may help us understand the more likely cause(s) and possible ways to amend the operational approach in light of any findings so that a renewed attempt at eradication may be made at some point in the future. We will make sure that every lesson possible is learnt, not just to benefit future RSPB efforts, but those of the wider island restoration community. The RSPB remains resolute in its commitment to see Gough restored, and to other eradications more widely including Henderson Island in the Pacific and will continue to work closely with our partners. While we wish we could be sharing more positive news at this time, we want to express our deep gratitude to all those who have supported the Gough Island Restoration Programme. We will endeavour to keep you all updated as and when we have further significant information.

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