Killer mice decimate albatross population

January 2nd, 2009 - 11:13 am ICT by IANS  

London, Jan 2 (IANS) The critically endangered Tristan albatross has suffered its worst breeding season ever and is closer to extinction, thanks to the depredations of mice, according to latest research. The number of chicks making it through to fledging has decreased rapidly, and it is now five times lower than it should be because introduced predatory mice are eating the chicks alive on Gough island - the bird’s only home and a South Atlantic territory of Britain.

The mice are also affecting Gough Island’s other critically endangered endemic species, Gough Bunting Rowettia goughensis. A recent survey of the bunting’s population revealed that the population has halved within the last two decades. Now there are only an estimated 400-500 pairs left.

“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,” said Richard Cuthbert, an RSPB (Royal Society for Protection of Birds) scientist who has been researching the mice problem on Gough Island since 2000.

“We also know that the mice are predators on the eggs and chicks of the Gough bunting and mice predation is the main factor behind their recent decline.”

“Without major conservation efforts, the Tristan Albatross will become extinct,” said John Croxall, Chair of BirdLife’s Global Seabird Programme. according to a BirdLife release.

A complete survey of the Tristan Albatross on Gough Island in January showed there were 1,764 adult albatrosses incubating eggs. A later survey revealed that only 246 chicks had survived to fledging.

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