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Anguilla is one of the most northerly states in the Lesser Antilles and a British Overseas Territory. Its 13,500 people inhabit the main island of Anguilla, a low strip of land 26 km long and 5 km wide at its widest point. This island has been heavily impacted by agriculture and, more recently, the clearance of its dry forests for luxury residential and tourism development.
Anguilla is surrounded by some 50 km2 of coral reefs, many of which are still in good condition, plus more than 20 uninhabited limestone islands. The most remote is Sombrero, home to two endemic lizards and designated an Important Bird Area. One of the smallest is Little Scrub (less than 5 hectares), which also has its own rare, endemic reptile. Another Important Bird Area is the privately-owned Dog island, where hundreds of thousands of seabirds breed.
Other notable denizens of this archipelago are the endangered Anguilla Bank racers, Lesser Antillean iguanas, Anguilla bush, hawksbill turtles and a host of resident and migratory birds.
Like many parts of the West Indies, Anguilla has suffered from the spread of alien invasive species. Black rats and feral goats have colonised many of the islands to the detriment of native plants and animals, but could feasibly be removed.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been active in Anguilla since 1997. Previous initiatives have included environmental education with local schools, control of alien invasive iguanas, and a successful emergency campaign to prevent Sombrero from being developed as a rocket launch site.
Today FFI is developing an ambitious project to remove alien species from Dog Island. We are working in partnership with the Anguilla National Trust, the Anguillan Department of Environment, the UK Defra’s Food and Environment Research Agency and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
In 2012, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and partners eradicated alien invasive black rats from Dog Island and two neighbouring cays in a major operation involving more than 50 local and international personnel. The need for this project was identified by the Anguilla National Trust and Department of Environment, who were concerned by the impacts these omnivorous rodents have on native plants and animals, including the island’s globally important seabird colonies.
The project team is now monitoring the effects of removing the rats, as well as establishing fences to exclude feral goats from the most sensitive areas. As Dog Island’s ecosystem gradually improves, FFI may also explore the feasibility of re-introducing other globally threatened and endemic Anguillan species.