Bird expert Shanna Challenger shares conservation formula at Saba Bird Fest

Bird expert Shanna Challenger shares  conservation formula at Saba Bird Fest

Conservation biologist and bird expert Shanna Challenger (right) gave a presentation on Thursday evening as part of the first-ever Saba Bird Fest.

SABA--Conservation biologist and bird expert Shanna Challenger’s presentation during the first-ever Saba Bird Fest on Thursday evening raised awareness of the power of locally-led conservation actions.

    Challenger, who is the Offshore Islands Conservation Programme Coordinator at Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) of Antigua and Barbuda, shared how the organisation’s conservation work was able to restore Redonda, the small island which lies about 56 kilometres southwest of Antigua, between the islands Nevis and Montserrat.

    In 2008, Redonda was deforested, eroded, and collapsing into the sea as a result of past human activity, when the island was used for guano mining during World War I, yielding up to 7,000 tonnes annually. During the mining years, the island became infested with rats and a growing population of feral goats that were left behind. This proved detrimental to the island’s bird life, most importantly the Brown Booby.

    Redonda has more than 20% of the Brown Booby population in the Easter Caribbean and about 1% globally.

    Like Redonda, Saba is also recognised as an important bird area.

    Saba currently faces similar issues as Redonda and, therefore, learning from and collaborating on conservation actions can be beneficial to the island, said Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) Project Officer Dahlia Hassell-Knijff.

    Challenger shared EAG’s success formula on Thursday.

    EAG had complimentary expertise in island restoration and invasive species control, as well as assistance from diverse international partners that provided volunteers. EAG also had multi-stakeholder collaboration and support from donors.

    The lesson learnt in Redonda’s restoration, Challenger said, was that rats deplete biodiversity and feral goats can alter ecosystems. Almost 5,000 rats were eradicated from Redonda. Challenger said that a female rat can produce 10,000 offspring in a year in ideal conditions, so it was important that they left no female rats behind.

    Birding expert Binkie van Es’ presentation on Wednesday evening focused on awareness of various types of birds on Saba. A long-time advocate for bird conservation, Van Es also gave tips on the ins and outs of bird-watching.

    He said the island is still discovering new birds, as a rare species was spotted during the festival’s guided bird boat tour on Wednesday morning.

    He also said festivals such as the first-ever Saba Bird Fest are important to create awareness about the importance of birds.

    “Humanity and birds, we are actually quite closely linked for our survival. Birds contribute to seed dispersal and birds are indicator species when something goes wrong in nature,” Van Es said.

The Daily Herald

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