Tristan da Cunha

About

Tristan da Cunha, rising to over 2000 m above sea level, is miles from anywhere in the South Atlantic Ocean – except its neighbouring islands of Nightingale and Inaccessible, and, 300km to the SE, Gough Island.  It warrants a mention in the Guinness Book of Records as the most isolated inhabited island in the world, being over 1,900km from St Helena and 2,400 west of Cape Town. Only the island of Tristan da Cunha itself is inhabited. At the start of the millennium, the human population (which has never exceeded 300 throughout the previous 184 years of occupation) was 284.Being isolated and devoid of all living organisms at its volcanic origin, the evolving flora and fauna of the island hold a special interest for scientists and visitors. The local government aims to balance its environment and economy as the community depends on sustainable harvests of rock lobster Jasus tristani (with some high-end retailers stocking it) and fish.

Over 40% of Tristan’s territory is a declared nature reserve, and Gough and Inaccessible Islands comprise a World Heritage Site. Gough is the largest relatively unmodified cool temperate island ecosystem in the South Atlantic. The site has been described as ‘a strong contender for the title most important seabird colony in the world’. Introduced rodents predate on chicks and eggs and are a major threat to the birds on Gough Island.  Conservationists have conducted feasibility studies in order to eradicate them.

There are no indigenous terrestrial mammals. The introduction of rats and mice in the 1880s destroyed much of Tristan Island’s indigenous bird life. Efforts are being made to remove these. Fortunately, the islands of Nightingale and Inaccessible remain rodent free and are home to several endemic land birds including the Tristan thrush Nesocichla eremite and the rare Inaccessible rail Atlantisia rogersi, the smallest flightless bird in the world. Millions of seabirds, such as the vulnerable spectacled petrel Procellaria conspicillata, yellow-nosed albatross Thalassarche chlororhynchos, the Endangered Tristan albatross Diomedea dabbenena, the Vulnerable Atlantic petrel Pterodroma incerta and greater shearwater Puffinus gravis, breed – as do fur seals Arctocephalus tropicalis and elephant seals Mirounga leonina, now recovering from the hunting of the 19th century.

At least 212 plant taxa have been recorded in the Tristan Group, including 35 native ferns and 58 native flowering plants. Of these, 20 fern and 34 flowering plant taxa are considered to be endemic. There are 59 endemic species of moss among 126 recorded.

Off-shore, 40 species of algae are recorded, of which two are endemic, Gallinula comeri and Rowettia goughensis. Many cetacean species are seen, including southern right whales Eubalaena australis, sperm whales Physeter catodon, humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae, long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas and Shepard’s beaked whale Tasmacetus shepherdi, as well as several species of dolphins.

Read more about the wildlife, history and cultural heritage of all of the UK Overseas Territories in the 704 page Britain’s Treasure Islands book (CLICK HERE).

Watch 42 ‘mini-documentaries’ that explore the wildlife, cultures and history of all of the UK Overseas Territories (CLICK HERE). 

Map

Video

Tristan da Cunha – wildlife and heritage

 

Life on Tristan da Cunha – the World’s Most Remote Inhabited Island

 

Tristan da Cunha – the Monster Mice of Gough Island

 

Read more about the wildlife, history and cultural heritage of all of the UK Overseas Territories in the 704 page Britain’s Treasure Islands book (CLICK HERE).

Watch 42 ‘mini-documentaries’ that explore the wildlife, cultures and history of all of the UK Overseas Territories (CLICK HERE).