Brighter future for seabirds on Scilly
The Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project has completed the first phase of a five-year project to protect the breeding seabird population on the islands. Scilly is home to approximately 20,000 breeding birds, or 14 species including both Storm Petrel and Manx Shearwater for which the UK has a global responsibility.
The project has a number of aims, the first phase of which has been to reverse the recent drop in bird numbers by eradicating invasive rats from the islands of St Agnes and Gugh, maintaining the uninhabited seabird islands 'rat-free' and increasing the number of people actively involved in seabird conservation. Rats have not been recorded on the islands now for 20 weeks since the Isles of Scilly Seabird Recovery Project (IOSSRP) first launched. Everyone is cautiously hopeful that rare nesting seabirds, in particular the Manx Shearwater and Storm Petrel, will now be able to flourish free of predation of eggs and chicks by brown rats.
New Zealand island restoration specialists Wildlife Management International Limited (WMIL) were contracted to carry out the key rat removal from November 2013 to March 2014 on St Agnes and Gugh. They were joined by more than 20 ‘Seabird Task Force Volunteers’ during the five month period and all 85 islanders assisted the operation. The effort of all involved has ensured that the removal phase has been successful. Now, islanders will continue to work closely with the Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust to ensure St. Agnes and Gugh remain rat free.
And now that the seabirds are returning to Scilly for the summer, they already have a brighter future.