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Island rebounds after plague of invasive species nearly destroyed everything: ‘The island transformed right in front of our eyes’

“Up to this date, we haven’t planted anything, we haven’t reintroduced any species.”

"Up to this date, we haven't planted anything, we haven't reintroduced any species."

Photo Credit: iStock

Redonda, an island in the Caribbean, is uninhabited by humans but has been a haven for several species of seabirds and many other types of local flora and fauna. However, all that wildlife became threatened when humans began making trips to the island in the 19th century and introduced invasive rats and goats in the process.

Luckily, a recent effort from Antiguans and Barbudans to remove those species has had a major impact on the small island. In just two years, the total plant biomass on Redonda has increased by 2,000%.

“Up to this date, we haven’t planted anything, we haven’t reintroduced any species. We just removed the rats and the goats, and the island transformed right in front of our eyes,” Johnella Bradshaw, the program coordinator for the Environmental Awareness Group, told CNN.

The species that have returned to Redonda include dozens of threatened species and new generations of seabirds that haven’t been seen there in centuries.

However, not everything that has been lost can be brought back — the invasive rats and goats that wrecked the local ecosystem led to the extinction of the native species of skink and iguana and the disappearance of the Antiguan burrowing owl.

Invasive species are defined as any plant or animal that is introduced to a foreign area by human activity and causes harm to the environment, economy, or human health. 

In the case of Redonda, the rats and goats were brought to the island (the rats, unintentionally as stowaways, and the goats intentionally) by miners deployed by the British government to harvest guano (bird excrement), which is a valuable fertilizer. This began in the 19th century and soon led to the island becoming a barren desert.

But the rehabilitation effort, which began in 2016, has apparently been an immense success. By simply removing 60 feral goats and killing off 7,000 rats, the Environmental Awareness Group has returned life to the island. This month, the government of Antigua and Barbuda established the Redonda Ecosystem Reserve, which will now protect the island from future harm.

“We are putting our money where our mouth is,” said the EAG’s Shanna Challenger.

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