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Lundy Seabird Recovery Project

Three quarters of the world population of Manx shearwater breeds on islands around UK

Lundy Island receives national recognition and legal protection for the variety of wildlife it supports. The main seabird conservation priority on Lundy is the Manx shearwater, a bird with a highly restricted global breeding range. Three quarters of the world population breeds on islands around the UK and only a small number of islands support significant numbers. Therefore, the UK has an international responsibility for this species. The Lundy population of Manx shearwaters is only a 166 Pairs, based on a survey in 2001. Earlier studies in 1940 estimate the population to be approximately 1000 pairs indicating a significant decline has occurred.Puffins are also an important part of the islands fauna and surveys that started over 60 years ago also show that puffins have declined almost to the point of extinction on the island with only 13 individuals being observed during 2000.In considering the factors responsible for population declines of these two seabirds the Seabird Recovery Project looked at food supply, disease and predation. Other islands close enough to Lundy for the birds to interact socially and share feeding grounds have healthy populations of Manx shearwater and puffins. Skomer, only 64 kilometres from Lundy has over 100,000 pairs of Manx shearwater, indicating food supply is not a significant factor and there must be something else effecting the birds on Lundy.The significant difference between Lundy and the other islands is its population of rats Skomer and Skokholm are rat free. Neither the brown or black rats have protection in law and are not included in any of the widely accepted expressions of conservation concern i.e. Biodiversity Action Plans. This reflects their global abundance and the fact that neither species is native to the UK, owing their presence here to unintentional introductions by man. Rats are known to eat the eggs and chicks of ground and burrow-nesting birds like Manx shearwater and puffin. Rat eradications programmes have previously been carried out on British sea bird islands (Ramsey, Ailsa Craig). In these locations the seabird populations are starting to recover.In 2001 the Lundy Management Group agreed to attempt to remove rats from the island. The Seabird Recovery Project team consisting of English Nature, The National Trust, The Landmark Trust and the RSPB was formed to manage the eradication of rats from Lundy. The group prepared a summary document, capturing the scientific rationale behind the project and incorporated details from the feasibility study prepared by Wildlife Management International Ltd.The decision to safeguard some wildlife by controlling others is never taken lightly. Being signatories to a number of international conventions, the UK is committed to protecting threatened species plants and animals. These obligations and the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence have led to the establishment of the Seabird Recovery Project.

4th July 2014