Rob joined FFI's Conservation Science team in 2012 after completing an MRes in Ecology Evolution and Conservation at Imperial College London. He also holds a BSc (Hons) in Biology and has spent three years working for research institutes and conservation NGOs in tropical Africa, Asia and the Americas. Within the Conservation Science team, Rob provides cross-organisational support to FFI’s regional teams, contributes to the Global Trees Campaign and coordinates the Flagship Species Fund and Rapid Response Facility.
Flagship species are those iconic, charismatic species that capture public admiration and may be used as figureheads to promote broader conservation action.
The Flagship Species Fund is a partnership between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). In 2013, the Fund will support the conservation of some of the most endangered, yet best loved, species as well as promoting new and emerging flagships for conservation.
The eight grants will cover a range of species (from mammals, reptiles and birds to invertebrates and plants), with projects working towards:
Last, but by no means least, the fund will be supporting the conservation of the land crab (Johngarthia lagostoma) on Ascension Island. The land crab’s relationship with the inhabitants of Ascension Island has come a long way since the first permanent settlements were made on the island in 1815, when a British naval garrison was built. The admiralty saw the crabs as pests and rewarded sailors from the garrison with rum for killing them.
Today, the crabs enjoy a much more favourable relationship with the islanders, with images of them appearing on postage stamps and guide books. However they still face severe threats as they are now locked in competition with introduced species including rats, mice and rabbits.
Land crab. Credit: Sam Weber
Mass spawning of thousands of land crabs only occurs at a few locations around the island, and on just a couple of nights each year. Dr Sam Weber, who will be leading the conservation efforts, remembers the first time he experienced this spectacle: “The bright orange of thousands of crabs moving over the black volcanic coastline is really striking and stopped me in my tracks. I particularly remember laughing at the little ‘hula dance’ they do as they release their eggs into an approaching wave. Now I can’t help wondering how much more impressive it would have looked at the time the first ships landed at Ascension and before species introductions and harvesting began.”
The Operation Land Crab team will be using the Flagship Species Fund grant to tag spawning crabs with coloured claw bands and microchips. This will allow the team to identify individual crabs in the future and study their migrations, growth rates and age.
FFI looks forward to following the progress of these interventions through the year, and wishes the project teams every success as they strive to conserve these iconic species.
Since its establishment in 2001, the Flagship Species Fund has awarded 151 grants, which have in turn provided support for the conservation of 101 threatened species. This has included household names like the mountain gorilla, African elephant and hawksbill turtle.
But the Fund has also supported some little known, but engaging, species that have become new champions for the conservation of their habitats. These have included the cowboy frog, freshwater crayfish, Cebu cinnamon tree and Indian tarantula. The success of these projects proves that a species doesn’t need to be furry, act like a human, or be a candidate for a child’s cuddly toy, to enlist widespread interest and spearhead conservation action.
Through these projects, FFI has supported the work of 109 local NGOs or agencies, across 40 developing or transitional countries and five UK overseas territories.
In 2012, the Fund supported 11 locally developed and delivered projects, which resulted in meaningful change on the ground. These include:
By supporting a wide range of species and approaches, FFI has continued to explore what makes a locally-powerful conservation symbol, and promoted the conservation of the world’s most iconic and threatened species.