Tristan Albatross chicks are raised exclusively on Gough Island, a UK Overseas Territory. Sadly they are being predated by 'killer mice' at such an unprecedented rate the species faces imminent extinction unless urgent action is taken.
Government funding to tackle the introduced mouse epidemic on Gough Island is severely lacking, despite strong recommendations from two Select Committees calling for the problem to be urgently tackled: "biodiversity found in the UK Overseas Territories is equally valuable and at a greater risk of loss [than the UK]." Simply eradicating mice from the island would resolve the problem: albatross chicks face the horrific death of being eaten alive by mice whilst still on the nest.
RSPB scientist Richard Cuthbert has researched the mice problem on Gough Island since 2000. Speaking about the latest results he said:
“We’ve known for a long time that the mice were killing albatross chicks in huge numbers. However, we now know that the albatrosses have suffered their worst year on record.
"The mice do not affect the adult albatrosses, but we know from our work that these are being killed by long line fishing vessels at sea. So, unsustainable numbers of this bird are being killed on land and at sea. Without conservation efforts, the Tristan albatross is doomed."
The Gough bunting - endemic to the island - faces the same threat and is equally at risk. A recent survey showed that of 1764 incubated Albatross eggs on the island, only 246 chicks survived to fledgling, an astonishingly low 14%.
The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on Halting Biodiversity Loss, published a statement recently backing calls by the RSPB saying:
"One of the most important contributions that the Government could make to halting biodiversity loss would be to provide more support for the UK Overseas Territories, where it is the eleventh hour for many species. Although England has a number of internationally important species and habitats, the biodiversity found in the UK Overseas Territories is equally valuable and at a greater risk of loss. The Government must act now to protect these areas."
This view was backed up by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee for the UK Overseas Territories who stated in June: "The environmental funding currently being provided by the UK to the Overseas Territories appears grossly inadequate and we recommend that it should be increased."
The British Ecological Society is a member of the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum and fully supports the position of the Select Committees in calling for urgent funds to be allocated for efforts to eradicate mice from Gough Island.