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This Caribbean nation is often referred to as a ‘twin island state’, because most of its 85,000 people inhabit the main islands of Antigua and Barbuda. In fact, this is an archipelago of dozens of islands, surrounded by 240 km2 of coral reefs.
With “one beach for every day of the year”, the country attracts more than 700,000 visitors every year. Yet pockets of poverty still linger and most government agencies and nongovernmental organisations remain sorely under-funded and understaffed.
The environmental challenges are enormous. Most of the country’s forests were cleared during the colonial period and its coastal areas are now under heavy pressure from tourism and housing development. For terrestrial wildlife, the spread of numerous alien invasive species has proved to be especially catastrophic.
Given the many pressures on the populated islands, the smaller islands off Antigua’s northeast coast have become essential refuges for wildlife. The country’s endemic and threatened species, such as the Antiguan racer, white-crowned pigeon and the elegant West Indian whistling duck, rely on the islands for survival. The biodiversity of these stunningly beautiful islands is globally recognised and attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Another jewel in the Antigua and Barbuda archipelago is the rarely visited Redonda island. Though only 250 hectares in area, Redonda has three endemic lizards and major colonies of seabirds, including red-footed and masked boobies.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been championing Antigua’s endemic species for 15 years, starting with the Antiguan racer snake. We are working with the local organisation Environmental Awareness Group to eradicate the invasive species that have caused so much damage to the native wildlife.
This initiative was launched in 1995 as an emergency response to save the Critically Endangered Antiguan racer snake. Fauna & Flora International and our partners have increased the snake population from 50 individuals to more than 500 thanks to eradication of alien invasive rats and mongooses from 12 offshore islands, a re-introduction programme, and nationwide education campaigns.
The removal of alien mammals has also resulted in exponential increases in many other threatened and endemic fauna and flora on the offshore islands, which are maintained and monitored by trained local volunteers. We will assess the feasibility of restoring Redonda, a large volcanic island that has a unique and severely threatened fauna. We also intend to support conservation of the seas around the offshore islets (including the nation’s largest marine protected area, which stretches over 25% of the coastline).
Many of the hallmarks of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) are stamped on one of the Caribbean’s longest running conservation initiatives, including championing ‘lower’ species, being innovative and responding to locally-identified needs. This programme dates back to 1995, when an Antiguan forester and naturalist, Kevel Lindsay, asked FFI to investigate the endemic Antiguan racer. This little snake had been rediscovered on one of Antigua’s cays, but, like many Caribbean species, almost nothing was known of its status or needs. Great…Read more