LIFE Shiants - Protecting and restoring the Shiant Isles SPA through rat removal, and safeguarding other seabird island SPAs in the UK

LIFE13 NAT/UK/000209

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Contact details:

Contact person: Nick Folkard
Tel: 441767693207
Fax: 441767683211
Email: nick.folkard@rspb.org.uk

Project description:


The Shiant Isles Natura 2000 network site is a key site for seabirds. However, the site faces several threats, including the presence of invasive rats that predate important seabird colonies. When conditions were last assessed in 2008, both of the seabirds covered by the assessment – razorbill (Alca torda) and common guillemot (Uria aalge) – were classified as ‘unfavourable declining’. At present, few biosecurity plans exist for islands such as the Shiants, and no clear best practice guidelines are available. As a result, many key breeding colonies are vulnerable to invasions by alien species, and managers are ill prepared to respond to such invasions. Preparatory work for the LIFE project suggested that a sustainable eradication of rats was feasible at a reasonable cost on the Shiant Isles, particularly given their remote location.


The main seabird species targeted by the LIFE Shiants project are razorbill, Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) and European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis). In addition, the project expects to benefit a range of other species, including European storm petrel (Hydrobates pelagicus) and Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus).

The main objectives of the project are to:

  • Remove invasive rats from the Shiant Isles Natura 2000 network site, thereby eliminating a significant pressure on the existing seabird population;
  • Promote the colonisation of the Shiant Isles by European storm petrel and Manx shearwater, for example, through the use of call playback;
  • Protect the Shiants through improved biosecurity by establishing minimum biosecurity standards, producing a guideline document for island managers and carrying out training exercises across the country; and
  • Build expertise within the UK (and elsewhere in the EU) in island restoration, thereby reducing reliance on expensive external contractors.
  • Expected results:

  • Eradication of rats from the Shiant Isles Natura 2000 network site;
  • Increase of the populations of puffin, razorbill and European shag, with similar improvements in the status of other seabirds, including common guillemot, black-legged kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) and northern fulmar (Fulmaris glacialis);
  • Increase of the populations of other species found on the Shiants, including terrestrial and wading birds, invertebrates and plants;
  • Increase in the rate of recovery of Shiant Isles’ Atlantic puffin, razorbill, European shag, and other seabird populations, as predicted by similar rat eradication projects elsewhere in the UK, with productivity at or above the level required to maintain stable populations by the end of the project (this level is 0.253 fledglings per pair a year for puffin, 0.500 for razorbill and 0.833 for shag);
  • The establishment of Manx shearwater and European storm petrel on the islands for the first time in at least 100 years (through active attraction measures as well as rat eradication), with anticipated prospecting for nests in the first year after eradication and egg laying in year three;
  • The development of a minimum standard for biosecurity for important seabird islands around the UK, and the delivery of a training programme linked to this standard; and
  • Raised public awareness of the threat invasive species pose to seabirds and biodiversity generally.



Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


endangered species‚  protected area‚  island‚  restoration measure

Target species

 Alca torda   Fratercula arctica   Hydrobates pelagicus   Phalacrocorax aristotelis   Puffinus puffinus   

Natura 2000 sites

SPA UK9001041 The Shiant Isles



Coordinator The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the largest wildlife conservation NGO in Europe. It promotes the conservation and protection of birds and of the wider environment through public awareness campaigns and the management of around 200 nature reserves in the UK.
Partners None


Project reference LIFE13 NAT/UK/000209
Duration 01-OCT-2014 to 31-DEC -2018
Total budget 1,116,088.00 €
EU contribution 558,044.00 €
Project location Scotland(United Kingdom)


Read more:

Newsletter Project's Newsletter (1st issue - Feb 2015)
Newsletter "Shiant Isles Recovery Project: Project Newsletter ...
Newsletter "Shiant Isles Seabird Recovery Project: Newsletter ...
Newsletter "Shiant Isles Recovery Project: Project Newsletter ...
Project web site Project's website


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version