Gough Island restoration programme
Gough has been described as the greatest seabird island in the South Atlantic. But many birds which nest here are now under threat, including the iconic Tristan albatross.
- To prevent the extinction of the Tristan albatross and Gough bunting, listed as Critically Endgangered
- To restore Gough Island to its natural state so 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 Island Council as custodians of Gough Island and ensure a lasting legacy for Tristan da Cunha, a British Overseas Territory.
Eradicating mice from Gough Island to prevent extinctions
The solution is relatively straightforward but the operation will be logistically complex, mainly because of the island’s remoteness. Gough is 1,550 miles (2,800 km) from South Africa. All staff and equipment must be shipped to the South African weather service base on Gough. An additional remote camp will be set up at a northern point.
The eradication of the non-native mice will be achieved using helicopters spreading bait in specially modified agriculture fertiliser spreaders. These helicopters will be piloted by highly experienced pilots each guided by the Global Positioning System (GPS).
This programme is buoyed by the success of the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project and the successful delivery of the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project. Both of these projects highlight that complex island restoration projects are achievable in difficult environments.
The Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) spends most of its life at sea, wandering over the Atlantic. These graceful birds only seek land when they mature at 5-7 years of age and it’s finally time to mate. Around 2,500 pairs of Tristan albatross return to Gough Island each summer to breed, performing an intimate courtship as can be seen in this video.
The birds then rear a single chick among the tussac grasses and tree ferns of Gough Island. But having evolved without land mammals, these birds lack the instinct to protect their offspring from the attacks of the mice on Gough. In 2014, fewer than 10% of breeding pairs successfully fledged a chick. If nothing changes, this magnificent albatross will go extinct.