Conservation is the core of what we do. New Island is the only place in the Falklands which is devoted primarily to wildlife and environmental conservation and which is managed exclusively by a conservation charity.
It was not always so. For some 120 years New Island was run as a sheep ranch, much like the rest of the Falkland Islands. For several years in the early part of the last century, it was also the site of a whaling station. We still live with the consequences, which include soil erosion and the presence of non-native invasive flora and fauna (the latter including, cats, rats and rabbits).
However, sheep and cattle were finally removed in the late 1970s, and the shooting of wild birds and the collection of their eggs ceased. Since then the island has undergone a slow recovery, although the consequences of past use are still with us.
As part of this commitment to maintaining New Island as a wildlife reserve, it has also been developed as a centre for scientific research. From late September to late March each year the island becomes an important base for the study of wildlife and the natural environment.
Much of the scientific work in recent years has been undertaken by two groups of scientists, based in Portugal (Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisbon) and Germany (Justus Leibig University Giessen and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology), as well as by Ian Strange and other groups. Their work has been greatly facilitated by the construction of the Geoffrey C Hughes Field Station in 1996 to 98. The research undertaken on New Island is important not only for an understanding of the ecology of New Island and the Falkland Islands more generally, but is also of global significance.
A thorough botanical survey of New Island was carried out in 2010/11, and we hope to repeat this in the future. If you wish to read the survey report, please click here.
Please see the Research page for more information about science on New Island.
Looking to the future, we shall be seeking to work more closely with Falklands Conservation, the principal NGO undertaking conservation work throughout the Falklands, and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute, based in Stanley, Falkland Islands. We shall be encouraging the further development of scientific research based on and around New Island.
A major challenge for NICT is to address the issue of invasive species, particularly cats, rats and rabbits. An initial feasibility study has already been carried out, but solutions will need to be found to certain practical issues, particularly concerning the risk of incidental mortality of specific bird species, and a major fundraising campaign will have to be undertaken, before eradication can go ahead. To read the feasibility study, please click here.
Another important aspect of our conservation work has been the management of sustainable tourism, mainly by visiting cruise ships but also by Falklands residents staying in self-catering accommodation on the island. Ian Strange was a pioneer of small-scale eco-tourism in the 1970s, and this has been a core part of managing the island since then. It is important that as many residents and visitors to the Islands as possible should learn about our work and the conservation challenges we face – but in a sustainable way which avoids any damage to the wildlife and environment we are seeking to protect.
An important part of our work lies in the education of visitors and the public more widely about the importance of conservation both on New Island and throughout the Falkland Islands. We are particularly focused on encouraging the younger generation of Falkland Islanders to learn about the very special place in which they live, and we encourage visits to New Island by groups of young people.