Endangered sheep bred by teenage shepherd given conservation role on Flat Holm

A flock of endangered Boreray sheep, bred by a fifteen-year-old girl, have been shipped to Flat Holm to help the island's shrinking colony of lesser black-backed gulls recover.

Shepherd, Faith Green spent her childhood summer holidays in Wales helping to look after the sheep on her grandparent's farm and at the age of nine she decided she wanted a flock of her own, settling on Britain's rarest breed, the critically endangered Boreray, which originate from the Hebridean islands off the west coast of Scotland.

Now fifteen years old, Faith said: "When I first started what I wanted to do was increase their numbers because there's not that many left of them, they're gaining numbers now but not too fast, so they're still struggling.

"Over the past five years I've built up my flock and this is a good way to help the breed. I've selected a few individuals from my flock to come here to Flat Holm and spend the rest of their days here, doing whatever they want to do."

The Boreray sheep replace the Soay sheep that were introduced to Flat Holm in the 1990s. Old age has taken its toll on the original flock and only two now remain to graze the island's grassland, with a significant impact on its protected gull population.

In 2009 there were more than 4000 pairs of lesser black-backed gulls living and breeding on Flat Holm, a number that at the last count earlier this year had fallen to 1691.

According to Natural Resources Wales Conservation Officer, Elizabeth Felton, the declining gull numbers are "likely as a result of changes in the islands vegetation" and it is hoped the Boreray sheep could help the colony recover as the new flock graze the island and "create critical nesting sites" for the birds.

Managed and owned by Cardiff Council, Flat Holm island is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and Wales's first ‘Bee-Friendly' island.

Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Events, Cllr Jennifer Burke-Davies, said: "The work Faith has done to help this critically endangered breed at such a young age is really inspiring, and as the flock settle into their new home its impact will be felt even more widely.

"Flat Holm is a unique environment and it's important that we manage it sympathetically so its flora and fauna can thrive long into the future. The conservation grazing role the sheep will have on their new island home is going to be really important in helping us do that, and hopefully we'll soon see signs that gull colony is recovering."

As well as the gulls, the island is also home to a population of slowworms, the rare wild leek, and Wales's most southerly pub, the appropriately named ‘Gull and Leek.'