Unique bird colonies at risk on British island

A A A

Conservationists are calling on Britain to act to save birdlife on a tiny British-owned island in the South Atlantic, which is now home to a quarter of the world's newly endangered birds.

Two species unique to Gough Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago and the most important seabird colony in the world, yesterday joined the ranks of the world's most critically endangered birds. The Gough bunting and the Tristan albatross are among eight birds added to the revised International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of 190 bird species facing a high or very high risk of extinction.

The RSPB says the British Government must now pay the money needed to save the Gough bunting and Tristan albatross, which have fallen prey to a 19th-century blunder, when house mice were accidentally released on the island, now a Unesco world heritage site. The rodents, which are three times the size of ordinary house mice, prey on the chicks of the Gough bunting and Tristan albatross.

The vulnerable chicks are eaten alive by the mice, which also compete with the adult birds for food. Dr Geoff Hilton, an RSPB scientist researching conservation problems in UK overseas territories, said the problem must be tackled immediately.

"In the presence of house mice, the albatross and the bunting have no chance of survival. Things are getting worse and the only hope for these birds is the complete eradication of the mice," he said.

Government funding has been pledged for a programme to eradicate the mouse population, by dropping poison bait from helicopters. Dr Hilton believes such a scheme could offer the birds the opportunity to thrive again.

"The feasibility study reveals a glimmer of light showing that we might be able to fix this problem," he said.

"The UK government has supported us in discovering our problem ... The big question is whether they will take their international commitments seriously and do what the governments of New Zealand and Australia have done, and provide the big money needed to actually do the mouse eradication".

The two latest species to appear on the red list are not the only birds whose survival is threatened by the island's mice. Gough also supports five other species – the Atlantic yellow-nosed albatross, the sooty albatross, the Gough moorhen, the northern rockhopper penguin and the Atlantic petrel – which are at risk of global extinction.

"The world's greatest seabird island is being eaten alive, as the mice are likely to be affecting the fortunes of many seabirds on the island," said Dr Hilton. "Without help, Gough Island will probably lose the majority of seabirds, not just those confined to the island."

Elsewhere in the world, another six birds were added to the critically endangered section of the red list yesterday.

Russia's spoon-billed sandpiper, the Tachira antpitta of Venezuela; the Reunion cuckooshrike of Reunion; the Mariana crow, of the Guam and Northern Mariana islands; the Floreana mockingbird of the Galapagos islands; and the akekee of Hawaii. British birds are also increasingly under threat. The Dartford warbler and the curlew were reclassified as near-threatened.

However, the populations of five species have increased. The gorgeted wood quail, the Marquesan imperial pigeon, the purple-backed sunbeam, the Rondonia bushbird and the Somali thrush have all been taken off the critically endangered list.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices