Gough Island is a remote, uninhabited island in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, in the South Atlantic Ocean, more than 1,500 miles from Cape Town. Naturally free of land predators Gough has been an idyllic nesting ground relied upon by millions of seabirds including many who breed almost nowhere else. Its importance for threatened species and sites of outstanding universal value earned Gough World Heritage Site status in 1995 and Important Bird Area status in 2013.
Mice were accidentally introduced to the island, most probably by sailors during the 19th Century. Since arriving on Gough they have learnt to exploit all available food sources on the island, including seabirds. Video cameras reveal how the mice eat the flesh of seabird chicks. Tristan albatross chicks weigh up to 10kg, but open wounds inflicted over successive nights frequently lead to their deaths. Mice are now starting to attack adult seabirds too. The loss of adult birds adds even greater urgency to this extinction prevention project.
To prevent the extinction of the Critically Endangered Tristan albatross, the Endangered MacGillivray’s prion, and several other small seabird species that are affected by invasive non-native mice.
To restore the fortunes of Gough Island's seabirds and ensure the island remains one of the world's most important seabird nesting sites, worthy of its World Heritage Site status.
To support Tristan da Cunha in ensuring the long-term future of this special island and its unique wildlife.
The solution is relatively straightforward - eradicate the mice - though the operation to do this is logistically complex, mainly because of the island's remoteness, tough terrain, and harsh weather conditions. Using helicopters, highly experienced pilots will spread cereal bait pellets containing a rodenticide across the island. At the same time we will take safeguard populations of landbirds into our care so that they can stay safely out of the way until the operation is complete.
We are well-placed to carry out such an important and complex operation. The RSPB and our partners have years of island eradication experience to draw on.
The programme also involves some of the world’s leading experts in the field of island restoration who were instrumental in the success of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project and the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project, amongst many others. These two projects in particular give us confidence that, whilst hugely challenging, our efforts to restore Gough Island will be successful.
The future of Gough
Our commitment to Gough Island doesn't end once the mice have been removed. We will continue to work with the Tristan da Cunha Government, Island Council and community, as well as key stakeholders in South Africa to support the development and implementation of effective long-term biosecurity procedures to ensure that neither mice nor other non-native species are able to recolonise the island in the future.