Menu
Ecology and Life
The puppy room easing life's pain in a stroke
Gentle wobblings of a 'foul gull' fulmar
Frigatebird returns to nest on Ascension for first time since Darwin
New to Nature No 94: Canthigaster criobe
Uggie: 'He likes to fly first class'
It's a dog's life in China: sold for £1m or stolen and sold as meat
Malibu residents hire crew to remove rotting whale carcass from beach
Yellowstone's popular alpha female wolf shot dead by hunters outside park
What I miss most in the dead time of winter is the insects
BSE testing on cattle slaughtered for food 'no longer necessary'
Malaysia seizes 1,500 elephant tusks headed for China
The vibrant river was a welcome relief after the bleak, snow-covered fields
TV Review: Miniature Britain; Weight Loss Ward; Rome
Marine conservation group says UK lacks ambition to preserve seas
UK seas to gain 31 marine conservation zones
Live animal exports going via previously unknown routes
When a dozing otter steals the show
Newly discovered slow loris species already threatened
What the male bowerbird can teach us about home furnishings
Could this really be the fearsome, legendary Girt Dog reincarnate?
Overfishing is a solvable environmental challenge for the EU
Life comes cheap for winter wrens
Ash trees consumed by something of the night
Foie gras taken off menu in House of Lords
  Frigatebird returns to nest on Ascension for first time since Darwin
One of the world's rarest seabirds has returned to remote Ascension Island in the Atlantic 150 years after its colony was wiped out by feral cats. Last week ornithologists spotted two nests containing eggs being guarded by Ascension frigatebirds, the first of the species to breed there since Charles Darwin visited the island in the early 19th century.

Ascension frigatebirds only survived in a small colony on a nearby rocky outcrop where they were considered to be highly vulnerable to outbreaks of disease and oil spills. But now they have returned to the island after which they are named, raising hopes that the vulnerable bird may be rescued from extinction.

The news marks the success of a project which has cost UK taxpayers more than £500,000 and has involved the eradication of hundreds of feral cats that had been eating frigatebird chicks.

"We are absolutely overwhelmed," said Derren Fox, a conservation officer based on Ascension. "We thought it would take decades for the Ascension frigate to come back and breed after we had got rid of the island's feral cats. But we have already succeeded after only a few years. This suggests we have a real chance of saving the Ascension frigate."

The project's success also raises hopes of saving colonies of other species threatened by feral animals. These include populations of seabirds and amphibians on Montserrat, Gough Island and South Georgia, which are all ravaged by rats, mice and other wild creatures.

In the early 19th century, Ascension Island was home to more than 20 million seabirds, mainly masked boobies, black noddies, brown noddies and Ascension frigatebirds. The frigatebird was considered to be the most important because it was unique to the island. Adults are about 30 inches in length while males have distinctive red sacs on their chests which they inflate during courtship.

Around 1800, rats accidently introduced by settlers began to kill off chicks. Cats were imported to kill the rats but instead joined in the killing of frigatebird chicks. "By the time Darwin visited the island in 1836, there were only a few frigatebirds left and the last few were killed off not long after he left," said Clare Stringer of the RSPB, which has played a key role in re-establishing the bird on Ascension. Only a small colony of around 10,000 survived on Boatswain Bird Island, a rocky outcrop off Ascension's east coast which could not be reached by cats.

In 2002, the RSPB backed with funding from the Foreign Office launched a programme to eradicate Ascension's feral cats. "It was slightly tricky," said Stringer. "We had to avoid killing islanders' pet cats and kill only feral animals. Owners were told to collar and microchip their pets. Then traps were laid and feral cats caught in these were put down."

In 2006, Ascension was declared to be free of wild cats. "It has taken six years to get frigatebirds to start to recolonise the island since we got rid of the feral cats and frankly it could have taken much longer," said Fox, who with fellow conservation officer Stedson Stroud has been monitoring the island for signs of the frigatebird's return. "We now have two nests being tended by parent birds and that should encourage a lot more to settle here in future."
New to Nature No 96: Oncopodura fadriquei
Animal rights activists plan direct action against beagle imports
How the stink of a waterbuck could prevent sleeping sickness in Kenya
Tatler's dog, Alan, dies in bizarre revolving door accident
Insecticide 'unacceptable' danger to bees, report finds
Freedom Foods 'failing to crack down' on poor salmon farming standards
One in 10 Welsh livestock farmers illegally kill badgers, study suggests
Crab study puts pain on the menu
A large shape a bittern flies across the pond
Wolf killings are based on the most cynical of premises
New to nature No 97: Ferrisia uzinuri
Sad to see the tide turn against the otter
An owl swoops down on wings that seem as broad as they are long
Animals: are they good for supper or good companions?
Is human branding an animal-rights stunt too far?
Cat lovers pounce on campaign to save New Zealand's birds
Common pesticides 'can kill frogs within an hour'
There is something irresistibly cheerful about a flock of twite
Solomon Islands villagers kill 900 dolphins in conservation dispute
Mistle thrush numbers in decline
Guyana pledges to protect jaguars
Dung beetles navigate by the stars
How do you catch an escaped crocodile?
New to Nature No 98: Xerophytacolus claviverpus
Animal astronauts: the unsung heroes of space exploration
Pygmy elephants found dead in Borneo after 'poisoning'
A badger's biscuit-sized footprints in the snow follow the field edge
British moths in calamitous decline, major new study reveals
Menu
The lake is muted under the winter sun, like a faint watercolour painting
Should the RSPCA have pursued the man who ate a live goldfish?
Days of heavy rain have left the ancient woodland sodden
Alice Roberts: Rudolph and our early ancestors a love story
Saving the rhino with surveillance drones
Hunting with dogs ban unlikely to get free vote admit top Tories
The tracks in the snow revealed the secrets of these night visitors
A perfect winter's day for a walk
Meet the woman battling Japan's whaling fleet in Antarctic ocean
China captivated by tiny tuneful insects that sing for their supper
HBO sued by animal rights worker over abuse of horses on Luck
Some surprising facts about hedgehogs
Cats killed in cattery fire
Experience: my horse sank in quicksand
Alys Fowler: fat balls and mealworms
Hawks in danger of extinction in illegal hunting campaign
What the Japanese red bug teaches us about parenting
Fishermen back sanctions against Iceland over mackerel catch
What I learned the day a dying whale spared my life
Overfishing causes Pacific bluefin tuna numbers to drop 96%
Glistening with water droplets, the black-throated diver looked almost eerie
Kitten swallows 15cm-long TV aerial
As the rain blows over, a double rainbow arcs across the sky
A moorhen sent stone-skimmer splashes as it pattered across the river