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South Georgia Wildlife

I keep returning to the places I love most and South Georgia is one of them.

South Georgia is the largest bit of land in my ocean crossing from Cape to Cape, a 100-mile long stretch of impervious mountains that rise straight up from the cold polar waters of the Antarctic Convergence.

Once the haunt of old explorers, the island is now an important wildlife refuge — home to so many of the world’s beloved animal species: penguins, elephant seals, albatross, along with some very rare endemic birds. Traveling to South Georgia always feels like stepping into a wildlife celebration, where humans are the scant minority and there is always an army of penguins to show you who is boss.

Alas, even pristine, people-less South Georgia bears the imprint of human intrusion. Accidental rat populations have destroyed tussock grasses and prey upon native bird populations. Reindeer (introduced by Norwegian whalers back in 1911) have also affected the landscape and compete with native species for food.

Fortunately, the South Georgia Heritage Trust has ambitiously launched the Habitat Restoration Project with the aim to remove invasive species and return the island to its full and former glory. Stage One of the project has been successful, which gives all of us who love South Georgia the hope that one day the whole of the island can be restored.

This week in South Georgia, I sponsored an acre of the habitat restoration project. I look forward to the day when I return to South Georgia and can walk across that one pure acre of wilderness, alive with birds and mammals, happy to know that I made a small contribution.

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