Remote Seabirds Threatened by Tiny Rodents
Keith Springer is a hardy and determined sort. He is also a contract-killer. But don’t let that worry you! Springer devotes his time to the preservation of wildlife and sometimes that means terminating threats to its survival. He is an expert in slaughtering small creatures which have ended up where they shouldn’t be because of the ultimate threat to our planet’s most precious environments – man.
Islands are self-contained environments. Nature sees to it that a delicate balance is maintained but when humans come to visit they can bring with them alien species which wreak havoc on the natural order of things. That is where Keith Springer comes in. He has now turned his attention to Gough Island in the South Atlantic which is home to the critically endangered Tristan albatross together with several other species which are found nowhere else on Earth.
House Mice Invasion
Many years ago, hunting ships brought house mice to Gough Island. They have multiplied dramatically over the years and feed on the eggs and chicks of the seabirds. The birds have not evolved to see mice as threats because they are not native to the island and so the rodents can invade the nests at will to claim their meals.
The adult birds watch on confused and can be seen prodding the lifeless bodies of the young which have perished. 6,000 seabirds are being destroyed every year and the greedy mice have already evolved into specimens which are twice the size of their ancestors.
A Huge Operation
The Tristan Albatross is the third rarest albatross on the planet and its complete annihilation is a now a distinct possibility. But Keith Springer is on the case! He has worked hard planning the logistics of an operation to save the birds. He has worked out how many temporary buildings are needed, the accommodation blocks that will be required, how many people and much food and fuel he will need to complete his mission. He plans to send flights over the island to spray poison pellets that have been formulated to target the troublesome mice.
But the operation will have to take place during the harsh winter and the rare birds will have to be caged and protected. There are mice on steep cliff faces hiding in crevices and these will be difficult to reach. The work will be extreme and very costly. A campaign has been initiated to raise the required £7.6 million. If the money is found, then the mice could be successfully eradicated. This would take four years but would save the birds. If the campaign fails, the mice will continue to munch their way through their Tristan albatross buffet until the birds are extinct.
Keith Springer is working for the RSPB who are appealing for donations to support the project. You can read more about Gough Island on the RSPB website.