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Cahow recovery effort continues to soar

Jeremy Madeiros, terrestrial conservation officer, holds a cahow chick (Photograph by Jean-Pierre Rouja)

Conservationists celebrated another successful cahow season with 76 of the critically endangered birds fledging.

While the overall numbers fell slightly short of the record 78 chicks fledged in 2021, Jeremy Madeiros, the terrestrial conservation officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said records were set for Nonsuch Island.

“The translocation colonies have shown a 25 per cent increase with 25 fledged chicks compared to last year’s 19, making Nonsuch Island the most productive sub-colony for the species,” he said.

A spokesman for the DENR said the success was particularly noteworthy because the first chick at the Nonsuch colony fledged only 15 years ago in 2009.

“Previously, no cahows had nested on Nonsuch Island or any of the other larger Bermuda islands since the 1620s because of the introduction of mammal predators such as rats, cats, dogs and pigs, and overhunting by early settlers,” the spokesman said.

“This remarkable achievement highlights the dedicated conservation work over the past decades and fully confirms the success of the translocation project work that was carried out between 2004 and 2017 by Mr Madeiros.”

Walter Roban, the Minister of Home Affairs, said: “The record-breaking numbers this year are incredibly encouraging.

“It’s clear that our ongoing collaborations with Nonsuch Expeditions and local and international partners are making a real difference in the recovery of this iconic species.”

Nonsuch Expeditions was recently recognised as one of the world’s top conservation projects with a Chairman’s Award from the Mohamed bin Zayed Conservation Fund.

JP Rouja, founder of Nonsuch Expeditions and developer of the popular CahowCam programme, which gives researchers and the public a glimpse into cahow nests on Nonsuch, said the award was a “game changer”.

“It brings international recognition and much needed support, helping to enhance our monitoring and predator control capabilities and build new concrete burrows for the Bermuda petrel,” he said.

Cahows, also known as the Bermuda petrel, were largely wiped out by introduced predators and hunting by early English colonists. By the 1620s the species was believed to be extinct.

However, the species was rediscovered in 1951, with a handful of the birds found nesting on four rarely visited rocky islets, sparking efforts to rebuild the population.

As part of the project, man-made burrows were created on Nonsuch Island with chicks translocated to the island in the hope that they would return to Nonsuch as adults.

The project has borne fruit with a growing number of birds fledging on the island and, for the first time since the 1620s, a cahow couple last year successfully dug its own burrow and raised a chick inside it.

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Published July 08, 2024 at 7:57 am (Updated July 08, 2024 at 7:56 am)

Cahow recovery effort continues to soar

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