Are you planning a day visit or overnight stay to Skomer or Skokholm in 2019? If yes then we need your help to keep our special islands safe from invaders.
The islands of Skomer and Skokholm are home to breeding populations of seabirds of both national and international importance. There are no significant ground predators (such as large mammalian predators or snakes) on the islands. Their continued absence is key to the future conservation of our seabirds and other ground-nesting birds.
The introduction of new species such as rats, or even other, smaller rodents, poses the greatest current, and acute, risk to our islands. Islands such as neighbouring Ramsey, where rats arrived via shipwrecks, are testament to the damage that can be caused; significant increases in breeding seabird species are only being recorded there after costly and time-consuming rat eradication in relatively recent history.
It is also important to note that whilst mammal introductions present a significant threat, other introductions such as of new plant species also have the potential to massively impact the island’s ecology (potentially including the seabird populations).
What You Can Do Help..
Whilst the accidental introduction of rats or mice may feel unlikely, the consequences could be devastating. For this reason it is essential that we maintain strict biosecurity and quarantine for all people and luggage travelling to Skomer and Skokholm. Adopting some quick and easy safeguards could make all the difference. These apply to both day visitors and overnight visitors to both islands.
(1) Pack all luggage yourselves
(2) Pack all luggage in a rodent-free environment (e.g. avoid garages, sheds)
(3) If packing before the day of your arrival, store all packed luggage sealed and in a rodent-free environment. On the day of travel, inspect luggage to ensure no rodent has accessed the containers.
(4) Do not bring anything that might present a threat onto the island. This includes plants with root balls / compost (including potted herbs), seeds etc.
(5) All luggage must be closed. Open bags and unsealed luggage will not be permitted to land on the islands.
(6) Avoid leaving your luggage unattended in Martins Haven as this is a high risk area where rats are regularly recorded.
Thank you for your help keeping Skomer and Skokholm special.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What would actually happen if a rat or mouse got on the island?
The seabirds on Skomer and Skokholm thrive because there are no ground predators- no foxes, weasels, hedgehogs, rats, snakes or similar. As close as neighbouring Ramsey Island, rats arrived historically via shipwrecks, and significant increases in seabird species have only been recorded after incredibly costly and time-consuming rat eradication procedures have been undertaken.
Rats have preyed on 75 species of seabird around the world. One academic paper describes rats as being amongst some of “the largest contributors to seabird extinction and endangerment worldwide”. The arrival of one pregnant female could be all it takes to put Skomer or Skokholm at that level of risk.
2. Why have you made these changes? We’ve been coming for years but this is new.
With increasing numbers of people coming to the Pembrokeshire islands, the risk of rats and mice arriving has increased significantly. There is also greater awareness of how severe the impacts can be. By taking this action, we are bringing our safeguards in line with similar island nature reserves around the world. We know you visit Skomer because it is special, and we all want to keep it that way.
3. I know this bag is safe- why are you making me check or re-pack it?
Our quarantine policy will only work if we adhere to it absolutely. We have made the decision to prevent any open bags and boxes being landed on the island. Small mice for example can hide remarkably well and whilst your home might be rodent free, things like rucksacks, sleeping bags etc. may be stored in garages, attics or sheds that are less rodent-proof. Therefore we are asking the contents of all open bags- however empty or visible- to be manually re-packed into sealed containers which we will be able to loan you for your journey.
4. What about big deliveries to the island?
We have developed a wider quarantine plan which looks at all movements of people and materials to the island and addresses each according to the risk it presents. The movement of all materials will be subject to quarantine. More information on our wider procedures is available on request.
For further information or specific queries, contact Lizzie Wilberforce (Conservation Manager) on firstname.lastname@example.org