Sealing around on Gough Island!
Updated: Nov 9, 2018
Although our main focus on Gough Island is monitoring seabirds leading up to the rodent eradication in 2019, we support other research projects by gathering data on key species living here. The remoteness of Gough Island means there are few opportunities for researchers to visit the island. By working together we ensure that important data on Gough’s unique species is collected and available to inform conservation strategies needed to protect them.
As well as stunning seabirds, the low rocky shores of Gough Island are home to around 300,000 sub-antarctic fur seals. The large males arrive as early as October to mark out a territory, with the females returning to breed shortly after. Their presence doesn’t go unnoticed with their charismatic calls and wails, easily heard from our home at the island’s weather station on the cliffs above!
The large harems are now starting to leave Gough Island (Jaimie Cleeland)
Pups are born in mid-December and are soon crawling around on the rocks playing together. Being huddled together like this makes them easy to find!
It's not hard to find a pup to weigh! (Jaimie Cleeland)
In mid January and mid February, when the pups were 35 and 71 days old, Kate, Fabrice and I took to the beaches to weigh 100 of them for the long term monitoring program conducted by scientists at the Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria. Pups are easily caught by hand, with care not to get bitten! They are weighed using a sling and scale and marked with dye, to prevent the same pup being weighed twice, before being released back to their playmates.
Senior Field Assistant Fabrice holding a seal pup, ready to be weighed (Jaimie Cleeland)
The data collected is compared with previous seasons and results from other breeding sites. This important data helps scientists to understand what drives population trends, an important step to ensure the protection of this charismatic species.
This pup is just one week old (Jaimie Cleeland)
Two of last years pups are almost ready to leave the island and head to sea (Jaimie Cleeland)
Blog by Jaimie Cleeland
It's an exciting time on the Gough Island project as we lead up to the 2019 eradication operation - to keep up to date with all the latest news follow our Gough Island Facebook and Twitter pages, or contact us on the email address below to sign up for our newsletter.
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.