This Caribbean nation is often referred to as a â€˜twin island stateâ€™, 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 a beach for every day of the year, the country attracts over a million visitors every year. Yet pockets of poverty still linger and most government agencies and NGOs remain sorely underfunded and understaffed.
The environmental challenges are enormous. Most of the countryâ€™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 Antiguaâ€™s north-east coast have become essential refuges for wildlife. 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 stunning islands is globally recognised and attracts thousands of tourists every year.
Another jewel in the Antigua and Barbuda archipelago is the rarely visited island of Redonda, located 50 km west of Antigua. This 60 hectareÂ island has been badly degraded by invasive rats and by goats that were introduced in the 19th century by guano miners living on the island. Despite this, Redonda is still a biodiversity treasure trove, with several endemic lizard species and major colonies of seabirds such as red-footed, brown and masked boobies.