The Offshore Islands Conservation Programme, which evolved out of FFI’s hugely successful Caribbean project to rescue the critically endangered Antiguan racer from extinction, was instrumental in the creation of a new protected area covering over 3,000 hectares of Antigua’s coastline. This has helped to safeguard vital habitat for whistling ducks and other mangrove-dependent species.
West Indian whistling ducks are also among the many threatened species to have benefited directly from rat eradication and ecological restoration on Antigua’s offshore islands. The removal of invasive ship rats from Great Bird Island, once the last refuge of the critically endangered Antiguan racer snake, enabled whistling ducks to re-colonise the island and breed successfully for the first time in many years.
Raising public awareness about the bird’s threatened status and wider importance is also helping to turn around its fortunes. Today the West Indian whistling duck features prominently alongside the Antiguan racer and several other species in the national curriculum.
In 2014, the Conservation Leadership Programme – a partnership that includes FFI – funded an Antiguan-led project focusing specifically on the West Indian whistling duck. The team conducted surveys on the duck’s distribution on the offshore islands, designed a long-term monitoring programme, helped to address the threats posed by invasive species, and worked with visitors to solicit their cooperation in safeguarding the ducks and their habitat.