Huge £9.1 million project to eliminate mice from south Atlantic island to stop them eating critically endangered albatross eggs ends in failure after rodent is spotted by camera

  • To drop poisonous mouse eggs on Gough Island, April 2017, conservationists used helicopters
  • The island was home to albatross chicks, which were eaten alive by mice.
  • An estimated 2,000,000 seabirds are killed each year by rats
  • However, a single mouse was captured on camera. This means that the attempt to exterminate the animal in conservation didn’t work. 

A £9.1million RSPB project to blitz a south Atlantic island of rodents appears to have ended in failure – after a solitary mouse was spotted on a video camera.

Conservationists used helicopters for dropping mouse poison over Gough Island, which was described as the equivalent to putting man on the Moon.

It is one of the best nesting spots for South Atlantic seabirds.

It serves as a refuge for the endangered Tristan albatross (which is critically endangered) and MacGillivray’s pron (which is endangered).

It was reported that mice had eaten albatross chicks while still alive.

The rodents kill an average of 2 million seabirds each year. This is why it was necessary to exterminate them in order to conserve their species.

Described as the conservation equivalent of putting a man on the moon, conservationists used helicopters to drop mouse poison all over Gough Island. Pictured: A mouse on the island

The conservation equivalent of sending a man to the moon was achieved by conservationists who used helicopters for dropping mouse poison over Gough Island. Pictured: The mouse that was found on Gough Island

The helicopters dropped poisoned bait to remote areas of the island, while the seabirds were kept safe by being gathered inside.

They aren’t native to the island, but were brought there accidentally by sailors in the 19th Century.

In April of this year, the operation was completed to eliminate all mice from the island.

The island would be considered successful if it could be demonstrated to be free from mice by 2024.

According to the RSPB, a statement was released saying: “Today, Tuesday, 14 December,” the Gough Island Restoration Team regrets to announce that a single mouse had been spotted on the island following an earlier attempt at eliminating mice.

“This news is deeply disappointing and will make us feel even more sorry for the people that supported our effort to rebuild the island. Because the Gough Island mouse was removed from the island by every single one of its owners, it is necessary that more than 2 million seabird chicks per year are not lost. It also helps to save endangered species like Tristan albatross.

The RSPB said in a statement: 'Today, Tuesday 14 December, the Gough Island Restoration Team is devastated to report that following the mouse eradication attempt earlier this year, a single mouse has been spotted via monitoring equipment on the island.' Pictured: An albatross on the island

According to the RSPB, a statement was released saying: “Today Tuesday 14 December,” the Gough Island Restoration Team reported that a single mouse had been spotted using monitoring equipment. Pictured is an albatross found on the island

Beccy Spight, the chief executive at the RSPB, stated: “This was one the most ambitious and challenging island restoration programs ever attempted. This brought together experts from all over the globe to save globally endangered seabirds in an area many consider remote and hard to reach. 

“This has been conservation’s equivalent to landing on the Moon. This took more than a decade to plan and logistics.

“We had to act immediately to protect millions of chicks, stop predation and extinctions, and undo damage done by mice that humans have unwittingly brought onto the island.” 

Pictured: RSPB staff load cereal pellets filled with rodenticide into a bucket, preparing to spread it across the island

Pictured: RSPB staff pack rodenticide-loaded cereal pellets in a bucket before spreading it on the island 

“We feel confident that the partnership has given the project every chance for success. We have only seen one mouse so far. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that the other one will ever be sighted.

Although it seems that we may have failed to meet our goal, it’s too soon to determine what this means. The island is being monitored and assessed.

“The Gough situation and threats to unique seabirds on this island highlight the importance of effective biosecurity measures to keep invasive species out of the islands.