In light of the Covid-19 lockdown announced on 23rd March 2020, The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales had to close Skokholm Island to overnight guests.
The island was due to open to guests at the beginning of April. The shut down will be will be reviewed regularly but this came at our busiest time of year, just as Puffins and other seabirds began returning to the Islands to breed.
This is clearly an unprecedented time for the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. This loss of income for one year will have a catastrophic impact on our ability to manage and monitor our wildlife.
On Skokholm we are caring for the third largest Manx Shearwater population in the world (and combined with Skomer, the largest). Skokholm is also a highly significant Storm Petrel colony with a 2016 census predicting nearly 2000 occupied sites (making it the fourth largest in the UK).
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The cliffs heave with seabirds, hosting around 200 pairs of Fulmar, 4600 Guillemots and 2700 Razorbills. On April 7th this year we recorded 8534 individual Puffins, the highest April total since 1953, showing that the Skokholm population is increasing, in spite of global trends, and that this should be a bumper breeding year.
Breeding Season and Monitoring
We desperately want to ensure that our wardens can remain on Skokholm during the breeding season. Our staff protect the seabirds by ensuring that no-one disturbs the birds. They ensure that no predators come across to the Islands, such as rats, which would decimate the seabird populations.
It is so important for our long term understanding of change both on Skokholm and in the wider marine environment that the wardens are able to continue collecting data for long term monitoring of population size, breeding success and rates of adult seabird survival.
Their presence on the island is also key to the Observatory recording and ringing functions and maintaining the huge amount of evidence gathering that takes place every year. This includes (but is not limited to) phenology data on changing arrival dates of migrants, and the presence of scarce and vagrant species.
Investing in our islands
A great deal of time, money and effort has been invested in the Skokholm infrastructure in recent years, with so many of you giving generously to ensure that the buildings could be renovated and that the Island could remain open to guests. The wardening presence also ensures that the buildings remain dry and in good repair, protecting what has been a substantial outlay.
By keeping our staff on the Islands we can share wildlife highlights with you via social media, to lift your spirits during this difficult time and help you stay connected to the Islands.
We really do hope that we will be in a position to open Skokholm to guests later this year as soon as government guidance allows, and that the Wildlife Trust is sufficiently resourced to continue to care for Skokholm in the future. However, we need your help to keep up with our vital Islands conservation work.
Please donate to our Skokholm Island appeal… We need your support now more than ever!