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Riled Up is a journal of science, the environment, exploration, new technology, and related commentary.  Contributors include scientists, explorers, engineers, and others who provide perspectives and context not typically offered in general news circulation.  For interested readers, additional resources are included.

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Rewilding An Island

Rewilding An Island

Caribbean Frigatebirds (credit: Birds Caribbean/Rhiannon Austin)

The small Caribbean island of Redonda near Antigua and Barbuda provides a fine case study for what is possible with well-planned ecological restoration efforts. Good project design and on-the-ground management were keys to success and the tropical environment allowed for rapid recovery to happen.

Collaborations were established between the Caribbean non-profit Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), Fauna and Flora a wildlife organization, and local volunteers who worked together to restore a 'moonscape' on denuded Redonda to become a wildlife sanctuary. Some native species recovered from remnant survivors on the island; some seabirds re-established rookeries; while several species were specifically re-introduced to their former habitat. The recovery of the Redonda's vegetation, birds, and other wildlife was remarkable. Before and after drone views of the show the restoration progress over a six year timeline.

                                         Rewilding Redonda Island, 2016-2023 (credit: Ed Marshall/Fauna & Flora, Robin Moore)

Islands are excellent locations for restoration projects as the represent a contained landscape surrounded by water. An island's ecological degradation typically began with the release, sometimes purposefully in the release of goats, pigs and rabbits for food, or un-intentionally by the escape of rats and cats from ships that stopped there. The invasive animals adapted well to their new environment becoming feral pests that devoured the island's plants, trees, birds, and other wildlife. For restoration to have any chance of success, these invaders must be removed. This can require  aerial sharp-shooters to cull the goats and pigs or species-specific viruses that eliminate the cats and rats. Even other islands, from California's windy Channel Islands to Australia's sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island, show rewilding is possible in extreme environments when a project is planned and executed properly.

The EGA, Fauna & Flora, and their collaborators are working to restore other Caribbean islands degraded by feral pests so they can repeat their success demonstrated on Redonda. WHB

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