Northern rockhopper penguin

Our work in the Overseas Territories

It's been a great year for wildlife in many of the UK's Overseas Territories, but we still face challenges ahead.

Blue belt marine reserves

In 2016, we received some fantastic news when the UK Government, together with four Overseas Territory (OT) governments, announced that more than two million square kilometres of UK ocean will be protected for wildlife.

This far-reaching agreement will ensure that vast marine areas around the Pitcairn Islands, St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha will be protected from unsustainable fishing as part of the largest protected areas that the RSPB has ever helped to create.

We have been campaigning for the designation of so-called "blue belt" marine reserves for many years, alongside the other members of the Great British Oceans coalition and OT governments, so it was wonderful to hear that the future of these amazing places is more secure, for both wildlife and local people.

Exploring the unknown

In another exciting partnership project, we joined forces with the National Geographic Pristine Seas team and the Tristan da Cunha Government in January 2017 to undertake an expedition exploring the remote Tristan da Cunha archipelago in the South Atlantic. Over a period of five weeks scientists satellite tagged sharks and seals, counted seabirds, and deployed high-tech camera equipment to record the rare and fascinating wildlife that calls this place home. During the expedition we recorded a huge amount of valuable data and we’ll now be focusing on bringing all the information together to help the Tristan islanders with their plan to safeguard their waters by 2020.

After seven days at sea, we've arrived.

Tristan Da Cunha – the most remote inhabited island on the planet.

This is one of the reasons I became an explorer.

Underwater was as quiet, and gentle and amazing as any place I have ever looked at a kelp forest.

It's one of the best dives you can possibly imagine.

Tristan Da Cunha is an example to the rest of the planet as to how we should look after our ecosystems.

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The Tristan da Cunha volcano at dawn.

Good news for the UK's rarest birds

In December 2016, we celebrated yet more conservation success when the St Helena plover and Montserrat oriole were both down-listed from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

This is thanks to concerted conservation efforts from the RSPB, the St Helena National Trust and the Montserrat Department of Environment. 

The down-listing of these two species means the UK's only remaining Critically Endangered birds – the Tristan albatross and Gough bunting – are dependent on Gough Island in the South Atlantic.

This is one of the world's most important seabird nesting islands, but 900,000 chicks are killed there each year by introduced house mice.

Together with the Tristan da Cunha Government we're fundraising for an ambitious programme designed to save the island's threatened species by eradicating the mice and we were delighted when the UK Government announced £1.75 million of funding to help.

Critically Endangered Tristan albatross courtship dance on Gough Island

No end in sight to bird trapping

Sadly, it hasn't all been good news for our OT wildlife. In Cyprus, the illegal trapping of wild birds continues unabated, with an estimated 800,000 birds killed on a British OT military base last year alone – a 183% increase since 2002.

The military base authorities began to curb the illegal activity, but their initial attempts were brought to an end by protests by the trappers.

We are responding by stepping up our efforts to get the authorities to remove acacia trees, which are used by the trappers, from their firing range. We will also continue to work with BirdLife Cyprus to bring an end to the slaughter.

 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, perched seen through branches, Hampshire
Male blackcap