Mice as big as rats that eat albatross chicks from the inside
out are next on the radar of Wanaka helicopter pilot and
aerial pest exterminator Peter Garden.
Mr Garden returned recently from a two-week stay on Gough
Island in the South Atlantic, which is home to the critically
endangered Tristan albatross.
Mr Garden said mice had lived on Gough Island for about 200
years, but about 15 years ago the rodents learned how to
burrow into the bottoms of the relatively immobile chicks as
they sat in their nests.
They then proceed to eat the insides of the chicks. With this
new source of protein, the mice had grown to the size of
Pacific rats found in New Zealand and Mr Garden said the
mouse predation meant 90% of chicks did not survive.
He hopes funding of up to $8.5 million can be found to allow
a poisoning programme to be carried out within the next
couple of years.
Gough Island (6500ha) is part of the British overseas
territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Its only human inhabitants are a small number of
Mr Garden is one of those who have been investigating the
potential to run a mouse-eradication programme on behalf of
the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
But because the island is 2300km from the South African coast
it is very expensive to get to.
And, poisoning mice requires a much more intensive aerial
programme than for rats, because mice do not travel as far as
Mr Garden, who turned 67 this week, said he hoped he would
get the chance to work on the Gough Island eradication
programme and that it would lead to similar programmes on two
In 2015 he is expecting to return to the South Atlantic
island of South Georgia to complete a rat-poisoning operation