New video footage captured from the UK Overseas Territory of Gough Island in the South Atlantic shows mice attacking adult albatross.
Warning: Graphic video. Viewer Discretion is Advised.
Last year a study, published by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, found that invasive mice are responsible for two million fewer seabird chicks on Gough Island in the South Atlantic every year. This alone, was reason for concern for the future of endangered albatross and petrels, but new video footage has identified a greater concern—predation on adult albatross.
Mice and rats are among the most pervasive invasive species on islands around the world, but in recent years the threat of invasive mice has become even more apparent. In 2015, scientists on Midway Atoll in the Northwester Hawaiian Islands discovered invasive mice were attacking adult albatross. The epidemic of these attacks quickly spread across the island, threatening the world’s largest laysan Albatross population.
On Gough and Marion Islands, video footage has previously captured invasive mice attacking albatross chicks, but new footage shows a nesting adult on Gough being attacked throughout the night. Gough Island is home to 99% of the world’s Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross and Atlantic Petrel populations, putting their global populations at an even greater risk than previously understood.
Video cameras placed alongside nests have revealed what happens. The mice, in groups of up to nine, attack the birds and in the case of chicks can eat them alive. The ongoing threat to chicks poses a severe risk to the global population, but since albatross mate for life, producing just one egg every other year, the loss of adult birds will accelerate this tragedy.
We have known for more than a decade that the mice on Gough Island attack and kill seabird chicks. While this is already of great concern, attacks on adults, which can produce dozens of chicks in their lifetime, could be devastating for the populations’ chances of survival. survival of these long-lived seabirds. It’s a terrible development, and these gentle giants could now be lost even more rapidly than we first predicted.”Chris Jones, Senior Gough Field Assistant
Mice were accidentally introduced by sailors to the remote Gough Island during the 19th century. Now, mice have learned to exploit the island’s once abundant birds, eating alive the eggs and chicks of as many as 19 different species. In 2020, the Royal Society for the protection of birds and their partners plan to remove invasive mice, effectively securing the island for its native wildlife.
Featured photo: A pair of Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross on Gough Island. Credit: Ben Dilley
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