The Gough Island Restoration Programme
Situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, positioned equidistantly between South Africa and South America, lies a highly significant breeding ground for seabirds known as Gough Island. This remote island serves as the breeding habitat for 24 distinct avian species, many of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Regrettably, the avian inhabitants now share their home with an invasive species, specifically the house mouse. These non-native mice, introduced to the island by human activity, are causing severe harm to the island’s native wildlife, including plants and animals that have thrived there for millennia. The mice’s voracious appetite leads to the consumption of over two million seabird eggs and chicks annually, driving certain species perilously close to extinction.
In an effort to safeguard the birds, the Gough Island Restoration Programme was launched with the aim of eradicating the mice. In 2021, the Gough Island Restoration Programme attempted to eradicate mice from the island in one of the most challenging and logistically complex island eradications ever ventured.
Although the endeavor did not achieve complete success, it significantly reduced the mouse population, providing a respite for the birds. During this period, the avian inhabitants managed to successfully raise numerous chicks.
Scientists continue to monitor the birds and gather valuable information that will hopefully aid in future endeavors to eliminate the mice entirely. Part of this takeover and the overwintering field team’s work programme will relate to follow-up activities to further underpin efforts to restore Gough Island.
|Team||The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)|
|Project Name||The Gough Island Restoration Programme|
|Principal Investigator||Dr Antje Steinfurth|
| Field Team Leader|
(Gough68 & Gough69)
|Dr Lucy Dorman|
|Field Officer (Gough68)||Ms Rebekah Goodwill|
|Field Officer (Gough69)||Ms Hannah Greetham|
More about the work on the island for this takeover:
“During takeover our team is carrying out a census of Tristan Albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels across the whole island, the so-called round island survey. At this time of year, the Southern Giant Petrels are starting to breed while the Tristan Albatross chicks are about to fledge. The number of fledged Albatross chicks will then be compared to numbers of breeding pairs that were counted at the beginning of the year and so breeding success for this Critically Endangered bird can be calculated (more than 99% of the global population breed exclusively on Gough Island). The round island survey also provides the team with the opportunity to monitor the abundance and distribution of the two landbird species, the Gough Bunting and the Gough moorhen.
This takeover the team will also be taking some soil samples from the upland parts of the island. This is to help monitor the ecosystem in the wake of the mouse eradication attempt”.
The RSPB overwintering team members’ work:
They will focus on Gough’s bird life, monitoring the breeding success of species, providing estimates of their populations and survival and documenting the impacts of House Mice.
For more information visit about The Gough Island Restoration Programme, click on the link below.
Project information and images supplied by Dr Antje Steinfurth.
Anche Louw, South African Polar Research Infrastructure, 12 October 2023.