Rare Falklands wild life in grave danger. British military responsible.
The legacy of the Falklands War of 1982 remains, and now some 19 years on a colony of rare ?Black Browed Albatross' (Diomedea melanophris) are almost certainly going to be lost through a fire which is raging on South Jason Island, which lies to the north west of the Falklands.
The blaze started after British Royal Air Force Explosives experts ?unnecessarily' destroyed around 20 shells last Friday which were contained on two Argentine Skyhawks aircraft which crashed on the Islands back in 1982. There is still some uncertainty as to whether the two aircraft were shot down by British Forces or whether they crashed into the mountainous island during bad weather conditions. The explosion which occurred in the demolition of the shells last week resulted in a vast area of ?tussac' grass, which grows to 2 meters high, catching fire and the blaze quickly spread and became uncontrollable.
South Jason which is owned by the Falkland Islands Government measures just 4 miles long and 1 mile wide, but contains 385 hectares of ?tussac' grass which provides the nesting homes for 1,750 ?Black Browed Albatross', and 2000 ?Rockhopper Penguins', while it is known that other breeding birds include ?Cobs Wren' (Troglodytes cobbi), Prions' and the equally rare ?Straited Cara Cara' (Phalcoboenus australis).
According to Andrea Clausen of Falklands Conservation , ?It is virtually certain that all these species of birds will be totally destroyed by this fire ? it is a massive blow and a total disaster as far as we are concerned. We feel that the action by British Troops in destroying these munitions at this time of the year in particular was totally unnecessary and just an excuse for some Troops to have a ?jolly' (picnic) and get away from the Military Base'.
A joint team of civilian and Military fire-fighters have been trying to extinguish the raging blaze since last Saturday but with little success. Military helicopters have also been called into action and have dumped thousands of tons of water onto the Island but have made little headway.
Brigadier Geoff Sheldon who is Commander British Forces Falkland Islands attempted to defuse the growing anger being directed at his Troops by saying that the decision to destroy the shells which were found on the crashed Argentine Skyhawks was taken to protect members of the public who visit the Islands. He also said that ?There has been concern that one of the Pucaras that crashed (in 1982) may have been carrying a 1000 lb. bomb, which has never been found'.