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Feral Cats Extirpated on Ascension

Stamps celebrate seabird return…

One of the world's most important seabird colonies now has a brighter future thanks to an exciting and innovative project dedicated to boosting their numbers. A series of stamps has been produced to acknowledge the work of the Ascension Seabird Restoration Project which, by June 2005, has encouraged 348 pairs of five species of seabird to return and nest on mainland Ascension Island.

This remote island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is rich in unique flora and fauna. At the time of its colonisation by Europeans in 1815, it was thought to host 20 million individual seabirds. However, nesting birds were subsequently devastated by feral cats which were introduced onto the island in the early 19th Century to control introduced rats and mice.

Following a 98% crash in numbers, the seabird population on this tropical UK Overseas Territory now numbers around 400,000 individuals, mostly confined to offshore stacks and inaccessible cliffs. Among the island's avifauna is the the Ascension Frigatebird Fregata aquila, a globally threatened species that breeds nowhere else on Earth. It is believed that the species prefers to nest within colonies, therefore it will be a few more years until numbers of other nesting seabirds are at high enough levels to encourage its return to the Ascension Island mainland from its current inaccessible, offshore sanctuary."In 2001, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office provided the RSPB with funding for an important seabird restoration project on one of our Overseas Territories, Ascension Island. The project has been a great success and will make a crucial contribution to the conservation of the world's breeding seabird populations and the natural history of the island." —Foreign Office Minister Douglas Alexander, MP

The Ascension Seabird Restoration Project, assisted by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) with £500,000 funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has been removing feral cats from Ascension Island since 2001. No feral cats have been seen since February 2004, encouraging the return of the seabirds.

Species to have re-colonised the main island are: White-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon aetherus, Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aetherus, Brown Booby Sula leucogaster, Masked Booby Sula dactylatra and Brown Noddy Anous stolidus.

The island continues to be monitored intensively to ensure that feral cats don't become re-established.

4th July 2014