South West Wales

Wildlife trust seals Skokholm island purchase

An island off Pembrokeshire which is one of the UK's most spectacular havens for sea birds has been bought by a wildlife trust.

The keys to a lighthouse will be handed to the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales later on Wednesday, which will complete the sale of Skokholm.

The trust bought the majority of the island in 2007 after raising £650,000.

It launched a £250,000 appeal for the lighthouse last August, raising £150,000 in four months.

There are plans to turn the 1916 lighthouse into accommodation to enable visitors to see up close the colonies of Manx shearwater, storm petrels and puffins.

The lighthouse will continue operating despite the sale.

Mile-long Skokholm, with its nearby sister island, Skomer, is thought to the breeding home of roughly 50% of the world population of Manx shearwater.

A survey found it was home to 2,870 of the birds' burrows.

Trust chief executive Sarah Kessell said: "The rest of the island was bought in 2007, and this not only completes the last piece of the jigsaw, but it allows us to protect the population of the Manx shearwater that are on there.

"Over Skomer and Skokholm islands we've got about 50% of the world's population, and around the lighthouse itself is the densest colony of the Manx shearwater, so it allows us to protect it for future generations."

Extra beds

The lighthouse needs renovating and this is expected to cost up to £100,000, which would increase the number of people able to stay on the island to 24.

"The lighthouse will give us eight extra bed spaces," added Ms Kessell.

"You can't see the Manx shearwater unless you're on the island at night and we don't really have many day visits to Skokholm island, so it just allows a few more people to come over and experience this unique wildlife."

The trust has said it hopes to reinstate the island's status as a bird observatory, which was lost in the 1970s.

That would lead to more extensive bird counts and the netting of birds for tagging.

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