Invasive mice are decimating the Tristan Albatross population on Gough Island, but conservationists are at work to put an end to the destruction.
Self-contained, [island] flora and fauna adapt rapidly and with beautiful precision to their exact circumstances. But when man blunders in, bringing invasive species as his fellow travellers, carnage ensues.
Gough Island, of the Tristan da Cunha island group in the Atlantic ocean, is home to a remote colony of rare and extremely threatened seabirds. The Tristan Albatross is Critically Endangered–flying just abreast of that fine line of extinction. What is threatening the Tristan Albatross? Mice. More specifically, invasive mice.
It is believed that seal-hunting ships infested with mice accidentally delivered the invasive rodents to Gough Island. The invasive mice have been documented entering into Tristan Albatross nests and literally eating helpless chicks.
Neither chick nor parent has evolved to recognise the threat: they can watch uncomprehendingly as the young are eaten alive.
Approximately 600,000 Gough seabirds are lost to the invasive mice each year, and the rodents are evolving quickly to double in size. The disturbing, horror-film-like scene has sparked passionate conservation action. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, partnering with Birdlife International, is working with residents of Tristan de Cunha to restore Gough Island. Together, they hope to return the island to its safe, ecologically balanced conditions.
If their campaign to raise funds for the restoration of Gough Island is successful, it is expected that the project to remove the invasive mice will take four years. It is hoped that there will be a new generation of albatrosses thriving on a mouse-free island just one year thereafter.
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