The Ascension Frigatebird (Fregata aquila) is Ascension Island’s only endemic bird species. In the past, vast numbers of nesting pairs could be found on both the mainland and the surrounding stacks. However, with human colonisation and the subsequent introduction of rats and feral cats, the population has greatly declined to an estimated 10,000 individuals, all of which have been confined to breeding on the large offshore stack, Boatswain Bird Island. For this reason, the species is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
In 2001, a feral cat eradication programme was initiated on the Island, led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The last known feral cat was removed from the mainland in March 2004. Seabird re-colonisation of the mainland was first recorded in May 2002 and numbers have increased steadily since. The first species to recolonize were those that previous work suggested were most stressed for breeding space: the Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra), Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster), Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus) and Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus). The discovery in December 2012 of two pairs of Frigatebirds nesting on the mainland marks the return of all of the bird species to the mainland – a momentous occasion in the history of conservation work on the island. As these birds are colonial breeders, we hope that this marks the start of the Frigatebird regularly being observed nesting on the mainland.
Ascension Island Government (AIG) Conservation Department
Seabird monitoring is a vital part of the work undertaken by the AIG Conservation Department who carry out annual censuses to monitor population numbers and nesting success. They are also tracking a number of seabird species to build up a picture of where they forage when they are away from the island. Indeed, the department itself was set up in 2001 when a Conservation Officer was recruited as part of the Seabird Restoration Project. Staff numbers have increased since then and there are currently eleven full time staff employed both by AIG and by project grants from, for example, the Darwin Initiative, OTEP and JNCC. The full time team is also supported by volunteers who give up their time to assist with practical conservation work, and other visiting scientists who carry out collaborative research projects on Ascension.
For more information about visiting Ascension and experiencing its unique fauna and flora, from the eleven species of seabird to the globally important Green Turtle nesting population to the endemic plant species, please contact Toni Bendall – Tourism Development Officer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: (00247) 6244.
This set of six stamps (20p, 45p, 50p, 60p, £1.10p, £1.45p) commemorates the symbolic return of the endemic Ascension Island Frigatebird to the mainland for nesting, following a successful feral cat eradication programme led by the RSPB and AIG Conservation Department.
Photography: Nicola Weber, Derren Fox, Martin Routledge & Anselmo Pelembe
Design: Bee Design
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Stamp size: 42 x 28mm
Perforation: 13 ¼ x 13 ½ per 2cms
Release date: 16 August, 2013
Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd