What we do
A Tristan albatross chick in the wintery highlands of Gough Island
Image: Richard Cuthbert - RSPB
As well as around 300 islanders, this mountainous archipelago is home to millions of pairs of seabirds, and several unique land birds. It includes the World Heritage Site of Gough and Inaccesible Islands: Gough is arguably the most important seabird island in the world - and it’s British!
Unfortunately, albatrosses and petrels, including three species that nest nowhere else, fall frequent victim to longline fishing. And on the islands themselves is a far more insidious threat. Rats and mice reached the archipelago on board boats. The chicks of petrels and albatrosses have evolved on islands with no terrestrial mammals, and have no defences when such predators arrive.
Rats have destroyed many great seabird colonies around the world, after introduction by humans. On the main island of Tristan da Cunha the once vast colonies of petrels are now reduced to tiny remnants. On Gough Island, researchers have discovered that Gough’s house mice have learned to attack and kill seabird chicks, even huge Tristan albatross chicks.This predation is widespread and devastating. Tristan albatrosses and Atlantic petrels are declining fast.
Fortunately, two other islands (Nightingale and Inaccessible) remain rodent -free and it is vital that they remain so – they are havens for seabirds and endemic land birds such as the rarest “British” bird, the Wilkins’ bunting which is found only on Nightingale, and the world’s smallest flightless bird, the Inaccessible rail.
The RSPB is working with partners including the Government of Tristan da Cunha to reduce the infestation of the introduced plant Sagina procumbens on Gough: this species has the potential to transform upland areas of the island if it is allowed to spread. We are continuing to support conservation and monitoring work on Tristan and the other islands and have project work in the marine environment and on albatrosses underway too. Our plans to restore Gough through an eradication of its mice are continuing to develop.
An assessment of the impacts of rodents on Tristan and Gough has been published. Feasibility studies for the eradication of mice from Gough and rats from Tristan have been produced, as well as draft operational plans. A Tristan Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) has been completed and is being implemented, and monitoring manuals for birdlife have been published. All publications are available for download below.
Tristan albatross, Gough bunting, Gough moorhen, Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, spectacled petrel, Tristan thrush, Inaccessible bunting, Wilkins’ bunting, sooty albatross, Atlantic petrel
Biodiversity Action Plan for the Tristan da Cunha island
This updated action plan gives an overview of the present status of the biodiversity of Tristan da Cunha, and the actions planned to manage it effectively for the next five years 2012 - 2016
Date: 12 June 2014
Gough and Inaccessible Island World Heritage Site management plan
This management plan was published following a series of consultative meetings in Edinburgh-of-the-Seven-Seas, Cape Town and the UK. The plan sets out priority actions for the future management of the Gough and Inaccessible World Heritage Site. Its appendices are available as a separate download.
Date: 20 May 2014
Appendices to the Gough and Inaccessible Island World Heritage Site management plan
This zipped folder contains A1 – A19, the appendices to the Gough and Inaccessible World Heritage Site management plan.
Date: 27 May 2014
A Review of the Impacts of Introduced Rodents on the Islands of Tristan da Cunha and Gough
This paper presents a review of all the available information on the introduced rodents of Tristan and Gough Islands in order to assess the conservation value of dealing with their impacts.
Date: 23 January 2008
Gough Island bird monitoring manual
This report provides a manual of standardised count methods for bird species breeding on Gough Island by outlining reliable and repeatable census methods that will allow the monitoring of future population trends.
Date: 22 January 2008
Inaccessible Island bird monitoring manual
This report summarises monitoring protocols for the five threatened seabirds known to breed on Inaccessible Island, and presents baseline information currently available for these species. It is designed to act as a manual and basic resource for future monitoring of the island’s threatened seabird populations.
Tristan da Cunha Biodiversity Action Plan
The Biodiversity Action Plan for Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha rodent eradication feasibility study
A feasibility study for rodent eradication on Tristan da Cunha
Workshop report: assessing management options for the introduced rodents on Tristan da Cunha
The report from a workshop held to reach a consensus among stakeholders about the best strategy for reducing rodent impacts on biodiversity in the Tristan da Cunha Archipelago.
Preliminary Operational Plan for rodent eradication on Tristan da Cunha
The Preliminary Operational Plan for rodent eradication on Tristan da Cunha, describing comprehensively the planning, equipment, transport, personnel, logistics and costs required.
A feasibility study for the eradication of house mice from Gough Island
Research Report published by the RSPB Conservation Science Department
Date: 22 July 2009
Authors: John Parkes
Tristan and Nightingale Islands wildlife monitoring manual
Date: 3 July 2009
Published in: Erica Sommer, Richard Cuthbert, Geoff Hilton
Clare StringerHead of UK Overseas Territories UnitE-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The RSPB works in partnership with University of Cape Town and the Tristan da Cunha government. We are extremely grateful to the people of Tristan da Cunha and the Island Council for their support, and to successive Administrators of Tristan da Cunha.
We would also like to thank the South African Government and Ovenstones Agencies Pty Ltd for support and advice to our projects.
Our work on the Tristan Islands has been supported by many funders including OTEP, Darwin, Darwin Plus, and the European Union’s EDF-9.