Saving breeding seabirds of Ascension island

This video is called A Green Turtle making its slow way back to sea on Ascension Island.

From The Islander:

Ascension: Seabirds Succeed on Ascension Island

Submitted by The Islander (Gavin Yon) 14.12.2006

Ascension Island, a small, remote, volcanic island in the South Atlantic, is rich in unique flora and fauna.

Ascension Island is declared feral cat free.

Ascension Island, a small, remote, volcanic island in the South Atlantic, is rich in unique flora and fauna.

When it was first inhabited in 1815, it was thought to host 20 million individual seabirds, including the Ascension frigatebird, a globally threatened species found nowhere else in the world.

Following a 98% crash in numbers, the island seabird population decreased to around 400,000 individuals, mostly confined to offshore stacks and inaccessible cliffs.

The seabird population on the tropical UK Overseas Territory had been devastated by feral cats which were introduced onto the island in the early 19th Century to control introduced rats and mice.

So far, the Ascension Seabird Restoration Project has encouraged 726 pairs of five species of seabird, including brown noddies, masked boobies and red-billed tropicbirds, to return and nest on mainland Ascension Island.

A recipe for success

The Ascension Seabird Restoration Project, implemented by the Ascension Island Government, and assisted by the RSPB with £500,000 funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has since 2001 removed feral cats from Ascension Island.

Since February 2004, no feral cats have been seen on the island, encouraging the prompt return of the seabirds. Since this date, the island has run an intensive monitoring programme which has confirmed that the island is feral cat free.

A landmark in Conservation History

The Ascension Seabird Restoration Project is a landmark in conservation history because it is the first time that feral cats have been removed from an island where people were allowed to retain their pet cats.

The Administrator of Ascension Island Government said: ‘The project has been a great success and will make a crucial contribution to the conservation of the world’s breeding seabird populations and the natural history of the island’.

Tara Pelembe who runs the Ascension Island Government Conservation Department added ‘it would not have been such a success without a team of dedicated staff, and the support of the people of the island’. …

Editors Notes :
1) Ascension Island (7◦57S, 14◦22W) lies in the tropical South Atlantic. It is a small volcanic island with an area of 97 sq km.

2) The cats on Ascension island were introduced in 1815 to control the populations of rats and mice. Roaming wild, these cats quickly decimated populations of seabirds on the mainland, forcing most of the seabirds, except the colonially-nesting sooty tern, to nest on offshore stacks, principally Boatswainbird Island.

3) The project has worked with the local community to identify, register, microchip and, where necessary, sterilise pet cats, resulting in greater care of pets. Legislation was introduced through the project to prevent the reintroduction of cats to the island.

4) The Ascension frigatebird is a globally-threatened seabird, which is totally confined to Ascension Island. It is one of 11 species of seabird which regularly nests on the island.

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Tara Pelembe, Ascension Island Conservation Officer, on 00247 6359

Emily the cat survives ship stowaway adventure: here.

Finches of Tristan da Cuncha archipelago: here.

Sooty terns of Florida: here.

8 thoughts on “Saving breeding seabirds of Ascension island

  1. South Africa: Robben Island Birds On Road to Recovery

    Cape Argus (Cape Town)

    March 2, 2007
    Posted to the web March 2, 2007

    John Yeld

    Robben Island’s endangered African Black Oystercatchers have started breeding in record numbers following last year’s successful feral cat eradication programme.

    The island’s managers, Robben Island Museum, reported that there were just two of the cats left last month, down from about 70 in April.
    Africa 2007

    The cats had a devastating impact on the island’s seabird populations – including the iconic oystercatchers but also other indigenous species such as Swift Terns.

    The island was warned that it was at risk of losing its prestigious World Heritage Site status – awarded in 1999 – unless the cats were removed.

    A shooting programme was halted while animal lovers and the SPCA attempted to trap the cats and remove them from the island alive, but the wily cats proved almost impossible to catch and the shooting was resumed in June.

    Trapping efforts continued simultaneously.

    Researchers are expecting the island’s seabird populations, which had been dwindling, to begin rising again, and first indications from nest surveys are highly positive.

    The team responsible for monitoring the seabird populations reported last month that the feral cat removal programme had been highly successful.

    A record 85 oystercatcher nests were recently counted by Gordon Moir, a retired internationally renowned geologist who was brought in to assist in the monitoring programme run by the University of Cape Town’s Avian Demography Unit (ADU).

    Reporting to the Robben Island Museum authorities, ADU head Les Underhill said: “While we do not know how many chicks will fledge this year, it will certainly be more than any of the previous five years we have been monitoring. The bottom line is that the feral cat removal operation can be declared a mega-success.”

    Denmark Tungwana, chief operations officer for the Robben Island Museum, said this was “extremely good news for the Island”.

    He was particularly pleased because the museum authority was scheduled to table its new Integrated Conservation Management Plan at the World Heritage Committee’s 31st meeting in New Zealand in the first week of July.

    One of the recommendations of the committee after its visit a few years ago was that the museum updated its management plan.

    This has been done over the past two years, in association with local and international experts and other interested parties.

    The recently completed plan, sent to the World Heritage Centre at Unesco’s Paris headquarters, provides comprehensive guidelines for the long-term, sustainable management and conservation of the island – and it has been warmly received.

    Francesco Bandarin, director of the World Heritage Centre, sent a congratulatory letter to Robben Island Museum chief executive Paul Langa.

    “I am pleased to note the commitment of the authorities to establish a strategy for a comprehensive management plan that has considered altogether the main components of the property, namely, the maximum security prison, the Sobukwe complex, the quarries, the cemeteries, the shipwrecks and the natural environment,” Bandarin wrote.

    Shoni Khangala, the museum’s senior manager of marketing and communications, said public awareness and education campaigns about the new management plan would be initiated after the World Heritage Committee meeting and would form part of the museum’s 10-year anniversary celebrations.


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