Removal of invasive alien species revitalizes Redonda

Masked Booby on Redonda. Image: Ed Marshall via Antigua and Barbuda Department of Environment

Just over a year ago, work began in Antigua and Barbuda to remove invasive alien species from Redonda, an offshore island that previously had the appearance of a barren rock jutting out of the ocean.  A recent post on the Antigua and Barbuda Department of Environment’s website describes the remarkable results which have been observed so far:

If conservationists had waved a magic wand, the results could hardly have been more spectacular. Within 12 months of starving goats and thousands of ravenous rats being removed from Redonda, this remote Caribbean island has witnessed a miraculous transformation.

Since the ambitious restoration programme was rolled out, the rock of Redonda has been transfigured from an inhospitable lunar landscape to a greener haven. More importantly, the unique plants and animals native to this isolated, uninhabited outpost of Antigua and Barbuda are making a rapid recovery after being freed from an alien invasion.

The evocatively named Redonda ground dragon, a rare black lizard found nowhere else on the planet, has doubled in number – just one of the many fantastic beasts that have been pulled back from the brink of extinction by removing the predatory black rats and plant-devouring goats.

And it doesn’t stop there. In less than a year, numbers of the equally rare Redonda tree lizards have tripled, hundreds of new trees have sprung up, land birds have increased tenfold, and the island’s globally important seabird colonies – including magnificent frigate birds and several booby species – are having their best breeding year on record.

Speaking on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Dr Helena Jeffery Brown said: “The Government of Antigua and Barbuda considers the return to life of Redonda as a shining beacon in our collective efforts towards ecosystem restoration and biodiversity conservation that will bring us another step closer to attaining some of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.”

The project’s coordinator, Shanna Challenger, of the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI), added: “This has been the opportunity of a lifetime – witnessing the rebirth of an island. Changes forecasted to happen in five years occurred within months. Our conservation efforts really show the benefits of invasive species removal on Caribbean island ecosystems.”

Visit the Department’s website to learn more, including about plans for designating Redonda as a protected area

Previously on Green Antilles: Following removal of invasive species, Puerto Rico’s Monito gecko population is thriving and Removal of invasive alien species from offshore islands in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic leads to a rebound in endemic species populations.

[Image: Ed Marshall via Antigua and Barbuda Department of Environment]

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