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Small island with a gigantic footprint in endemic species

The British territories feature some of the most iconic environments on the planet, representing unique wildlife and opportunities for further species to be identified. Of all these locations, St Helena must be the jewel in the Commonwealth’s crown. Some even say the “Galapagos of the South Atlantic” as the island is home to a total of 2,932 species as identified by the RSPB.

From sea to land, perfect evolutionary conditions. Credit to Marc Lavaud

From sea to land, perfect evolutionary conditions. Credit to Marc Lavaud

The variety of altitudes, terrain and climate has provided the perfect evolutionary conditions for a vast range of endemic species on St Helena; 502 to be precise, with another 19 potentially endemic, 26 of which are globally threatened. Therefore a huge conservation effort is required to maintain St Helena’s wildlife.

So far conservation on St Helena is largely a community effort. Last September the island saw Peaks National Park re-launch as part of the National Conservation Areas. In addition, Marine Awareness Week is a humble reminder of the importance of the island’s marine environment. This time last year the island was in celebration after a long leaf hopper which hadn’t been spotted on the island for 137 years was re-discovered!

Credit to Mark Lavaud

The Peaks. Credit to Mark Lavaud

Despite the valuable conservation work on the island, there are still significant areas that require improvement. The marine environment in particular is largely unmapped, leaving species undetected and not accessed. The saddest moment in recent years was the extinction of the St Helena olive tree in November 2003. Other species remain on the brink of extinction, sometimes only survived by a couple of old trees.

St Helena Olive Tree

St Helena Olive Tree

Protecting St Helena’s environment is of upmost importance and a huge task. Our thanks go to the sterling work of the Saint Helena National Trust and the St Helena Nature Conservation Group. They are always looking for volunteers and welcome donations. If you want to help, visit this Facebook page.

To read more about conservation of the UK’s overseas territories download the RSPB’s latest reports.

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