COVID-19 Stranded Scientists Working to Save Endangered Birds From Killer Mice

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Invasive mice kill more than 2 million chicks on Gough Island each year, including the chicks of the critically endangered Tristan albatross, pictured here (Photo via the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds )

COVID-19 Stranded Scientists Trying to Save Endangered Birds From Killer Mice

by Nora McGreevey/Smithsonianmag/com

An invasive species of house mice are gnawing on the eggs and chicks of nesting seabirds on Gough Island, a remote breeding island in the south Atlantic. The mice—about 50 percent larger than normal house mice—pose an existential threat to many of the island’s bird species, including the critically endangered Tristan albatross, Jason Daley reported for Smithsonian magazine last year.

In February, a conservation team from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) traveled to the Island with a plan: kill the mice, save the birds. However, their conservation plans collapsed when the COVID-19 pandemic escalated in mid-March, according to a United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office statement.

As nearby countries began ramping up travel restrictions, officials had to scramble to figure out how to get the 12-person team off the remote island, Mark Brown reports for the Guardian. Gough Island, part of the British Overseas Territory Tristan da Cunha, is located in the South Atlantic Ocean about 1,750 miles west of South Africa and 2,000 miles east of South America. The island is uninhabited except for a weather station, Amy Woodyatt reports for CNN.

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