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Plotting a Future for the Wildlife of Redonda Island

By Mike Appleton, GWC’s manager of protected area management

It’s not often in conservation that we get to see the immediate results of our efforts. It usually takes years, if not generations, to begin to see signs that species and habitats are recovering because of our actions. This is partly what made my recent trip to the Caribbean’s Redonda Island, scrambling among the rocky slopes, so incredible—just one year after the start of an ambitious island restoration project on the island, the transformation is extraordinary. Threatened species barely hanging on to survival are thriving. For the first time in centuries, a new generation of seabirds (frigate birds, boobies and tropic birds) is growing up in a predator-free environment. Lizard numbers have at least doubled (they are so tame that they happily clamber on unwary visitors), and flowers abound where there was once a moonscape.

The main purpose of my August visit, captured in the photo story below, was to help compile a report to propose designating Redonda as a legally protected area and to help start drafting the first long-term management plan for the island, setting out its future for the next decade or more. This support is part of GWC’s continuing commitment to this remarkable project and requires a lot of research, paperwork and meetings. The Redonda Project Steering Committee is leading the process and has a diverse and dedicated membership, including government officials, national and international NGO representatives, and even the local helicopter pilot. The discussions are complex; topics include invasive species management, biodiversity monitoring, marine biology, fisheries management, national law and international agreements on territorial waters, finance and tourism. What is remarkable is the level of cooperation and determination for this unique collaboration to succeed and to secure Redonda’s future as a national and international treasure.

Mike Appleton

Me on Redonda Island, with Montserrat in the background. (Photo by Sophia Steele/FFI)

Mike Appleton

Redonda Ground Dragons are remarkably inquisitive and fearless. They even climbed on my head. (Photo by Sophia Steele/FFI)

Shanna Challenger

Shanna Challenger, the Redonda Restoration Programme Coordinator, admires the seabirds. (Photo by Mike Appleton, Global Wildlife Conservation)

Masked Boobies in Redonda

In the absence of invasive mammals, the Masked Boobies can now safely raise their young (Photo by Mike Appleton, Global Wildlife Conservation)

Frigate birds in Redonda

Nesting frigate birds. (Photo by Mike Appleton, Global Wildlife Conservation)

Redonda 2016

Redonda in July 2016, before the restoration project began. (Photo by Jenny Daltry/FFI)

Redonda 2018

The changes are dramatic. This is the same view in August 2018 a year after the restoration. (Photo by Mike Appleton, Global Wildlife Conservation)


Redonda can only be reached by helicopter. As the vegetation recovers, landing is becoming more difficult (Photo by Mike Appleton, Global Wildlife Conservation)

Redonda Ground Dragon

The Redonda Ground Dragon (Pholidoscelis atratus) is found nowhere else on Earth. (Photo by Mike Appleton, Global Wildlife Conservation)

Mike Appleton and nesting seabirds

The nesting seabirds are remarkably tame. (Photo by Sophia Steele/FFI)

Brown Boobies

Brown Boobies getting friendly. (Photo by Mike Appleton, Global Wildlife Conservation)

Redonda Steering Committee

Redonda Steering Committee meeting. (Photo by Natalya Lawrence/ EAG Antigua)

(Top photo by Robin Moore, Global Wildlife Conservation)

About the Author

Mike Appleton

Mike Appleton

Mike Appleton is GWC's director of protected area management. He focuses on applied, area-based conservation, building on scientific findings to achieve conservation results on the ground.