From Wildlife Extra:
Success in Mauritius’ attempts to save seabird breeding populations on its islands
January 2014: Moves to protect breeding seabirds on the Mauritian offshore islands, especially Round Island and Serpent Island, are gaining momentum. These islands play an important role in supporting some of the largest breeding colonies in the Indian Ocean and an ongoing project to halt declines in numbers is showing signs of success.
The Mauritius Wildlife Foundation (MWF), the representatives of BirdLife in Mauritius, started a Seabird Translocation Project in 2009, with the aim of restoring a lost seabird community on Ile aux Aigrettes and to learn as much as possible about the birds in the process. Translocations are a major tool in ensuring the survival of threatened species worldwide.
With the project now in its third season, 280 seabirds of five different species have been released to new, safe sites with help from the National Coast Guard and the National Parks and Conservation Service. In 2013 releases of 17 common noddies and 21 sooty terns ran smoothly, with all but a single bird fledging successfully. Harvested nestlings were translocated from Serpent Island to a cordoned off area on Ile aux Aigrettes. The birds were fed twice a day on communal feed trays after the initial weeks of individual hand-feeding, and they remained around the release site for some weeks after fledging, returning to the island to be fed for a time before gradually spending extended periods out at sea.
This is the first time, as far as is known, that these species have been translocated or hand-reared in any numbers, so any information gained during this trial is of great importance. The mix of different seabird species shows diverse behavioural, nesting and feeding requirements. Information on fledging times, growth and provisioning rates, and also fledgling survival, is adding to scientists’ current knowledge on seabirds.
There have also been recent helicopter transfers of around 30 tropicbirds from Round Island to Ile aux Aigrettes. Nestlings were harvested around two to three weeks before fledging and were hand-reared on a diet of fish, squid and octopus. White-tailed tropicbirds have been seen flying frequently over the island, and wedge-tailed shearwaters have been heard calling near release sites. These are all encouraging signs, and MWF hopes to find returning birds on the island over the coming seasons. These translocations demonstrate MWF’s long-term commitment to seabird and island restoration and will lay the groundwork for more challenging seabird restoration work in the future, such as the establishment of some rarer seabirds, including the Round Island petrel and the red-footed booby.