Three exciting new projects to benefit from Darwin Initiative support

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is pleased to announce that three of its projects have been awarded funding from the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative.

The Darwin Initiative awards provide funding to support global conservation projects that aim to protect threatened species and habitats as well as the livelihoods of people who depend on them.

The three FFI projects set to benefit from this funding are based in Antigua & Barbuda, Cambodia and Honduras…

Restoring a unique ecosystem in Antigua & Barbuda

Although it is uninhabited today, the island of Redonda – part of the Caribbean nation of Antigua & Barbuda – was once home to a colony of miners who settled on the remote island between 1865 and 1914, bringing with them goats and black rats. Once forested, the introduction of these invasive species led to wide-scale desertification and biodiversity loss and today even the feral goats are starving due to lack of vegetation to eat.

Redonda island has suffered desertification and biodiversity loss. Credit: Jenny Daltry/FFI

Redonda island has suffered desertification and biodiversity loss. Credit: Jenny Daltry/FFI.

Nevertheless, this tiny 1.5km long island remains a globally-recognised Important Bird Area that supports rare and significant wildlife. These include a variety of seabirds and several endemic and Critically Endangered reptile species, which are heavily preyed on by the rats.

To halt the loss of native species and promote reforestation, the Darwin Initiative funding will enable FFI and our partners to eradicate the invasive rats using methods we have successfully used to restore 23 Caribbean islands to date. Thereby, allowing the natural vegetation and endemic animals to recover, and the seabirds to raise their chicks free from predation. The goats will be moved to government farmland in Antigua where the Department of Agriculture will study and preserve this rare breed.

Through this work, FFI expects to see a swift and significant increase in Redonda’s populations of birds, reptiles, plants and other native wildlife, and to rebuild the natural functions and resilience of this unique ecosystem. The island and its surrounding waters have been allocated by the Government of Antigua & Barbuda to become a major new protected area, which this Darwin project will help to establish in collaboration with local stakeholders.

Protecting Siamese crocodiles in Cambodia

Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains contain more than half the world’s Siamese crocodiles and are also home to indigenous Khmer Daeum (“Original Cambodians”) – communities who are amongst the poorest people in Cambodia.

The mountain range is home to one of Indochina’s largest rainforest tracts and many endemic and globally threatened species including Endangered Asian elephants.

Following decades of poaching for the crocodile farming industry, Siamese crocodiles are Critically Endangered and continue to be threatened by habitat loss, hydro-electric dam development and accidental capture and killing from fishing gear.

Siamese crocodiles are Critically Endangered. Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI.

Siamese crocodiles are Critically Endangered. Credit: Jeremy Holden/FFI.

Many of the Khmer Daeum people revere these relatively harmless crocodiles, believing them to be their ancestors’ spirits and symbols of good fortune. Thanks to support from the Darwin Initiative, FFI will be building on its work in the area to help these communities decrease pressure on the forest and wetlands, develop sustainable livelihoods and protect Siamese crocodiles, elephants and other wildlife through community-led teams.

This innovative project also aims to empower the Khmer Daeum and other rural and marginalised communities to improve their living standards and gain improved recognition by government agencies for their crucial roles and expertise in biodiversity conservation.

Marine protected areas in Honduras

Many coastal villagers in Honduras are marginalised and endure severe poverty, depending heavily on fishing for food and livelihoods. However, these fisheries have declined due to degradation of mangroves and estuaries, harmful fishing practices and overfishing. This decline has threatened biodiversity and put local livelihoods at risk.

Supported by the Darwin Initiative, this project focuses on a seascape encompassing three marine protected areas (MPAs) on the Atlántida coast, which covers a range of interconnected habitats and contains high species diversity including Critically Endangered hawksbill turtles and Utila spiny-tailed iguanas as well as Vulnerable Antillean manatees.

Brain coral in Honduras. Credit: LARECOTURH.

Brain coral in Honduras. Credit: LARECOTURH.

The project will foster cooperation between coastal communities, whose livelihoods depend on shared fisheries and tourism resources, and will strengthen their role as custodians of the area, collaborating with the NGO’s entrusted with the management of the MPAs.

FFI and five Honduran NGO partners will be working to conserve biodiversity and alleviate poverty by connecting coastal communities, building their capacities for marine governance and livelihoods, strengthening the use of scientific and traditional knowledge for ecosystem management, promoting sustainable fisheries and protecting critical habitats and species.

The project will empower vulnerable groups within the coastal communities by ensuring that local fishers and communities are involved in the governance of their resources.