Wild Falklands - Expert Wildlife & Photography Tours
In the early 1970's Ian Strange bought an island...
...today it is an internationally recognised Nature Reserve
This is the story of New Island
61°18' W 51°43' S
The Western-most inhabited island in the Falklands' archipelago.
Eight miles long. One and a half miles wide.
Fifty two miles of coastline.
Two million breeding pairs of Thin-billed Prions, a small burrowing sea bird.
The World's largest breeding population of Striated Caracara, a rare member of the Falcon family.
An 'Important Bird Area' and a National Nature Reserve.
Over fifteen thousand breeding pairs of Black-browed Albatross.
Five species of penguin.
Three houses, a Field Station, no roads, no shops.
A place like no other
In 1972, Ian Strange and a partner had the opportunity to purchase a small, isolated island in the Falkland Islands. Stocked with sheep for around 120 years prior, a base for the Falklands' only Whaling Station between 1908 and 1916 and in a farming community where wildlife was generally regarded as a pest, New Island was a very different place then to what it is today.
In earlier days, this tiny island was also a popular anchorage for ships carrying whaling and sealing parties, mostly from the New England region of America. Ships' logs suggest that these ventures may have been as early as 1774. New Island was heavily exploited during this time - penguins were taken in large numbers for their oil and their eggs were taken for food. Seals were hunted for skins and blubber and during the whaling station's operation, around 1,600 whales were taken.
In 1972 when Ian took over, the island was suffering badly from severe overgrazing, was overrun by introduced animals like rabbits, rats and even pigs (which had been brought in to dig up burrowing sea birds).
Despite all of its past, this tiny island had potential. Ian introduced specialised wildlife tourism on New Island in 1973 - the first such project in the Falklands. In the same year, limited conservation research started on the island. Ian's vision was to establish the island as a nature reserve; to encourage conservation and research; and to develop eco-tourism.
Wildlife tourism was virtually unheard of in the Falkland Islands; today visitors' fees from cruise ships coming to the Islands contribute to one of the Falklands' main sources of income.
In 1978 New Island was split into two properties: North and South. Ian's business partner took management of the northern half and pursued small-scale farming there, whilst the south continued to be managed with a view towards restoring the natural habitat. Ian worked to re-plant native vegetation to halt erosion, keep introduced species under control and encourage visitors from the rest of the world.
In 1979, along with Sir Peter Scott & other conservationists, Ian and Maria Strange developed and signed a memorandum for the creation of a conservation organisation which is now known as Falklands Conservation - today a well established and highly profitable charity in the Islands. Originally called The Falkland Islands Foundation, few people even know that it was conceived on New Island!
New Island continued to develop with the formation of The New Island South Conservation Foundation - a move by Ian and
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his family to ensure the continuation of the reserve's projects in perpetuity and the protection of the island as a wildlife haven. The South half of New Island was awarded Sanctuary Status in 1993 and was later designated a National Nature Reserve in 1999.
With the idea of further strengthening the protection of New Island and its conservation projects, in 1995 Ian founded The New Island South Conservation Trust, a UK Registered Public Charity. He appointed a board of Trustees - a personal selection of friends and acquaintances with an interest in conservation and the island - who would be responsible for the reserve's future.
The North half of New Island, having been sold by Ian's original business partner in 1986 to another party, also became a private nature reserve and all remaining sheep were removed in 2004.
In 2006, enabled by a donation to the charity, New Island North was purchased by the New Island South Conservation Trust, making the island one entire reserve under the same ownership. The NISCT was consequently renamed the New Island Conservation Trust (NICT).
As Ian relinquished ownership of New Island South to the NICT quite some years before, to ensure the land would be protected under the Trust in perpetuity, the island is no longer owned by the Strange family, but as founders of the original project responsible for the last 42 years of hard work, we maintain a very strong connection with the island and all those who work and visit there today.
In all those years of operation, Ian and his family have seen tens of scientists from highly respected institutions all over the world come to undertake long-term conservation research on New Island. With a purpose-built Field Station to facilitate these studies, a reputation for exceptional standards in science, and over one hundred scientific papers published in prestigious journals, New Island is a top spot for conservation.
Ian, as a naturalist, wildlife artist and author, has long studied the nature of the Falkland Islands and has also undertaken many studies on New Island and other outlying islands in the archipelago. One of the most significant achievements is the long-term data set (spanning thirty years) for Black-browed Albatross population trends in the Islands - particularly on New Island. A population thought to be in decline by many, was actually proven to be doing very well; Albatross in the Falklands are a great success story, thanks in part to a greater understanding of wildlife preservation. An in-depth demographic study of this species on New Island is now in its 12th year.
In 1972 there was just one pair of Striated Caracara - a rare falcon species - on New Island. Today the island supports over 85 territorial pairs and many more non-breeding individuals; the largest known population of these birds of prey in the World. The island is a true wildlife haven, supporting hundreds of thousands of sea birds and huge numbers of seals, dolphins, birds of prey, passerines, wildfowl and plants, all in one of the most spectacular natural habitats in the World.
New Island is a great success story and an example of what can be achieved with a little vision, a great deal of passion, determination and a lot of hard work...we hope to see you there so you can experience it for yourself!