Redonda, A Dying Island Given a Second Chance at Life

An update on the Redonda Restoration Project

Brown Booby and Chick on Redonda Shanna Challenger - Fauna Flora International

Just over a year ago, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda announced ambitious plans to restore its little known offshore island of Redonda. The once forested island had been turned into a rocky and unstable landscape, due to impacts of invasive alien species. We’re not talking extra-terrestrial here, these are well known aliens; goats and rats. Alien, because they are not a natural part of the ecosystem and were introduced to the island. Invasive, because they have dramatic, negative impacts on the native plants and animals. The island’s nesting seabirds and endemic reptiles have taken a hard hit. Rats and goats have wiped out most of the vegetation, the few trees that have managed to cling on to steep slopes are over-crowded with Magnificent Frigate Birds and Red-footed Boobies seeking nesting sites. Rats could be seen swiping eggs from the nests of Masked and Brown Boobies. It was rare to see a landbird, and low insect biodiversity was clearly noticeable. The introduced goats were in fact a significant cause of their own suffering and population decline, as they slowly reduced their food source on the island. 

Redonda prior to eradication
Redonda prior to eradication
Photo by: Fauna Flora International

Fast forward to today and the island is quickly changing. The efforts of the Redonda Restoration Programme, a collaboration among the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, the Environmental Awareness Group and Fauna & Flora International, are bearing fruit only a few months after the removal of the goats and rats. Butterflies, not seen on the island for years, dance among the tall grasses growing in areas once devoid of vegetation. An insectivorous Grey kingbird is spotted perched on one of the remaining ficus trees, again a sight not seen on Redonda in many years. 

Redonda after eradication
Redonda after eradication
Photo by: Shanna Challenger - Fauna and Flora International

In addition to the founding partners of the RRP, the dramatic changes observed on Redonda would not have been possible without the involvement of Wildlife Management International Limited, Caribbean Helicopters and the British Mountaineering Council. The restoration team has included a diverse number of local and international volunteers and experts. Years of planning and current and future programme implementation have been funded by the Darwin Initiative, Global Wildlife Conservation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Programme, and the Waitt Foundation.

The actual restoration fieldwork began in November 2016 with removal of goats. As is well known, wildlife can be generally uncooperative, whether or not it is for their benefit. The last of the goats was not helicoptered off the island until May 2017. This unique breed of long-horned goats is of Spanish descent and closely related to those found in Cuba and the Canary and Cape Verde Islands. The herd are adjusting to their new environment on mainland Antigua, having never heard dogs barking or cars honking their horns. They are now in the care and ownership of the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, who intend to maintain the breed and explore options of utilising any unique traits. 

Team members from DoE, EAG and FFI in Redonda following a biosecurity check
Team members from DoE, EAG and FFI in Redonda following a biosecurity check
Photo by: Shanna Challenger - Fauna Flora International

This year a core team of 10 determined individuals, including experienced climbers, set up camp for an 8-week adventure of rat eradication. Safe access to the island is limited to helicopter only, a 20-minute ride from Antigua. The team were in effect quite isolated and it was paramount that all safety precautions were adhered to. The rat eradication operation adopted protocols that have been successfully and safely applied in other offshore islands since the 1990’s. The bait distributed across the island has no recorded negative impact on non-target species. As well as monitoring the uptake of the bait, the team monitored the wildlife and assisted in training and further building local capacity for additional volunteers and Government staff. 

A vital component of the work is continued biosecurity checks. Permanent bait stations placed on the island act as indicators, and would show evidence of rats if they are present, these are checked regularly. This is also accompanied by biosecurity protocols put in place for the restoration team, researchers and other persons visiting island. An educational campaign continues to highlight actions that persons can take to ensure that they are not responsible for spreading invasive species, not just to Redonda but throughout the Caribbean. 

Redonda Ground Lizard
Redonda Ground Lizard
Photo by: Jeremy Holden


The Redonda restoration team will continue to gather information on the wildlife of Redonda, with more detailed studies on the endemic reptiles, the Redonda tree lizard and the Critically Endangered Redonda ground lizard, and the recently discovered Redonda dwarf gecko (not yet officially described). The marine habitats surrounding this island will also be further studied as we expect the intervention on land to positively impact the surrounding sea. Already as the land stabilises with new vegetation there should be less run-off smothering coral and seagrass beds. The valuable data and information collected helps us evaluate the success of our conservation efforts, and provides lessons learnt for future work. Of equal importance, it informs the next stage of RRP that develops a management strategy for the area, one that will benefit the native wildlife and in turn add value to this magical offshore island of Antigua and Barbuda. 


Latest News