Doubling woodlouse, plummeting plants
Claire Stringer provides a round up of the latest news from the UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs).
Funds raised from our 2013 UKOTs appeal are already being put to very good use, making a vital contribution to nature conservation work in the overseas territories, thank you for your invaluable support too – there’s a huge amount to be done to help the UKOTs threatened wildlife, and we can only continue because of you.
Last September, Trevor Glass, a member of the Tristan Conservation Department, participated in helicopter trials on Gough to see whether eradicating mice on the island is feasible – and it looks very promising that this can happen. He returned to Gough in January this year, working to control invasive plants, and saw first hand the reason why we urgently need to remove mice from the island: there were many dead albatross chicks and evidence that mice are having a devastating effect on burrow-nesting petrels.
Early results from the 2013 northern rockhopper penguins counts on Tristan da Cunha and Nightingale sadly indicate another poor breeding season (numbers were also low in 2012). We will continue our research during 2014 to try and understand the reasons for this.
We’ll also carry out a census of Atlantic yellow-nosed albatrosses on Tristan and Gough this year – the first population census of the species on the islands since the 1970s. It will show whether conservation efforts are succeeding for these birds.
Good and bad news
There’s some exciting news from St Helena, where the world’s known population of the endemic spiky yellow woodlouse has doubled (to around 100 individuals) after local conservationists located a new colony in a precarious cliff-edge location. With your help, we’ll continue work to help this species and its precious cloud forest home during 2014.
But it seems that as one species steps slightly back from the brink of extinction, another moves towards it. We’ve become aware that the numbers of several species of endemic plants on Pitcairn have crashed.
The world populations of some, including arlihau (Bidens matthewsii) and the red berry tree (Coprosma rapensis var. Benefice) now consist of fewer than 20 individuals. We’re working with the Pitcairn government and colleagues at Defra and Kew Botanical Gardens to support the emergency recovery of these precious plants.
Laws that work for wildlife
Over the years, much needed environmental legislation has been slow to develop in the Cayman Islands and on Montserrat, but policymakers are making some progress and we welcome the efforts of the Territory governments to enhance protection of their natural assets. We hope there will be similar progress in the Turks and Caicos and Falkland Islands soon.
There are exciting times ahead at Ascension Island this year. We hope to build upon the restoration work we have already done there by working towards the designation of a largescale Marine Protection Area (MPA) around it. This would put Ascension on the global conservation map, giving more security for its seabirds, including frigatebirds and sooty terns, and the MPA would protect other marine species such as sailfish, turtles and sharks. Thank you for being a part of this vital ongoing work for nature.
How you can help
The UK Overseas Territories contain some of the world's most remarkable habitats and species. We're working to stop extinctions and we need your help to do it.