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Tristan da Cunha Programme

Tristan albatross chick

A Tristan albatross chick in the wintery highlands of Gough Island

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.

Project objectives

  • • We are working with the Conservation team on Tristan to build local capacity for conservation management and monitoring. We currently support two posts in the Conservation Department and have assisted with management planning and reporting for Tristan and the other islands. The RSPB has frequently had staff based on Tristan and Gough over the last decade.
  • We are carrying out research to increase knowledge of key sites and species. Currently we are managing a project to assist in marine management at Tristan, as well as to gather new information on the Tristan rock lobster, the cornerstone of the Tristan economy.
  • We are working with partners to plan for the eventual eradication of rodents from the Tristan Islands. The islands are large, rugged and have a ferocious climate. There are probably more than one million mice on Gough, and if even one pair survives, we would be back to square one.

Work planned or underway

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.

Results

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.

Species affected (not UK birds)

Tristan albatross, Gough bunting, Gough moorhen, Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, spectacled petrel, Tristan thrush, Inaccessible bunting, Wilkins’ bunting, sooty albatross, Atlantic petrel

Downloads

Biodiversity Action Plan for the Tristan da Cunha island

Biodiversity Action Plan for the Tristan da Cunha island

1.56Mb, PDF

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

Download

Gough and Inaccessible Island World Heritage Site management plan

Gough and Inaccessible Island World Heritage Site management plan

1.59Mb, PDF

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

Download

Appendices to the Gough and Inaccessible Island World Heritage Site management plan

1.78Mb, Zip

This zipped folder contains A1 – A19, the appendices to the Gough and Inaccessible World Heritage Site management plan.

Date: 27 May 2014

Download

A Review of the Impacts of Introduced Rodents on the Islands of Tristan da Cunha and Gough

A Review of the Impacts of Introduced Rodents on the Islands of Tristan da Cunha and Gough

1.41Mb, PDF

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

Download

Gough Island bird monitoring manual

Gough Island bird monitoring manual

582Kb, PDF

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

Download

Inaccessible Island bird monitoring manual

Inaccessible Island bird monitoring manual

563Kb, PDF

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.

Date: 22 January 2008

Download

Tristan da Cunha Biodiversity Action Plan

Tristan da Cunha Biodiversity Action Plan

527Kb, PDF

The Biodiversity Action Plan for Tristan da Cunha

Date: 22 January 2008

Download

Tristan da Cunha rodent eradication feasibility study

Tristan da Cunha rodent eradication feasibility study

566Kb, PDF

A feasibility study for rodent eradication on Tristan da Cunha

Date: 22 January 2008

Download

Workshop report: assessing management options for the introduced rodents on Tristan da Cunha

Workshop report: assessing management options for the introduced rodents on Tristan da Cunha

426Kb, PDF

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.

Date: 22 January 2008

Download

Preliminary Operational Plan for rodent eradication on Tristan da Cunha

Preliminary Operational Plan for rodent eradication on Tristan da Cunha

987Kb, PDF

The Preliminary Operational Plan for rodent eradication on Tristan da Cunha, describing comprehensively the planning, equipment, transport, personnel, logistics and costs required.

Date: 23 January 2008

Download

A feasibility study for the eradication of house mice from Gough Island

A feasibility study for the eradication of house mice from Gough Island

744Kb, PDF

Research Report published by the RSPB Conservation Science Department

Date: 22 July 2009

Authors: John Parkes

Download

Tristan and Nightingale Islands wildlife monitoring manual

Tristan and Nightingale Islands wildlife monitoring manual

604Kb, PDF

Research Report published by the RSPB Conservation Science Department

Date: 3 July 2009

Published in: Erica Sommer, Richard Cuthbert, Geoff Hilton

Download

Who to contact

Clare Stringer
Head of UK Overseas Territories Unit
E-mail: clare.stringer@rspb.org.uk

Partners

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.

Funding

Our work on the Tristan Islands has been supported by many funders including OTEP, Darwin, Darwin Plus, and the European Union’s EDF-9.