About 75 goats were airlifted to nearby Antigua, wrapped in plastic bags up to their necks, with pool noodles on their horns.
Located 35 miles from Antigua, the tiny island of Redonda has been uninhabited for more than a century. Once home to around 100 people, the island provided natural resources like guano and phosphates (used as fertilizers). However, after World War I broke out, the local mine closed suddenly, and the island’s small population migrated to nearby Antigua or Barbuda.
However, its human inhabitants left behind a few living reminders of their presence on the island. Namely, goats and rats, who ravaged Redonda’s fragile ecosystem and eventually left the lush green island brown and bare.
A rescue effort
In 2016, groups of conservationists from around the world began working to restore Redonda to its natural state. Starving goats had eaten every piece of greenery they could find. Rats were running rampant, wreaking havoc on the island’s natural food chains and all but destroying endemic animal populations.
The conservationists faced the daunting task of removing both goats and rats, an undertaking that took months to complete. The goats evaded capture by simply looking at the traps set for them, and jumping over them, Shanna Challenger, a project coordinator, told the Daily Mail. Eventually, more volunteers came to help, and one by one, the goats were caught and airlifted to nearby Antigua. In order to keep them as calm as possible during the 20 minute trip, they were wrapped in plastic bags, with pool noodles placed on their horns. In addition, the goats reportedly wore “old yoga pants” over their heads.
“The goats were dying of starvation – especially in the dry season and would eat any of the vegetation that dared to pop up its head on the barren land,” the conservation project team stated. “After months of thinking of ways to outsmart them, they have now been relocated to Antigua and are living happily in their new home.”
Scientists eradicated the roughly 6,000 large black rats living on the island using poison. They continue to monitor Redonda to ensure that these invasive rodents do not return.
An island worth saving
According to environmentalists from Flora and Fauna International, Redonda is of “vital conservation value”. The island has many species that have yet to be named. In addition, it is home to many rare species, including the Redonda ground dragon, a six-inch, completely black lizard. Although this lizard declined in numbers due to the presence of the invasive goats and rats, its population has now increased.
A “miraculous recovery”
After the removal of the rats and goats, environmentalists have reported that both flora and fauna on the island have made a “miraculous recovery”. In 2012, there were just 17 types of vegetation growing there. Today, there are over 90 types. Photos show that green vegetation is thriving on the once brown and barren island. In addition, birds, lizards, and geckos have increased in population.
“This has been the opportunity of a lifetime – witnessing the rebirth of an island,” said Challenger. “Changes forecasted to happen in five years occurred within months. Our conservation efforts really show the benefits of invasive species removal on Caribbean island ecosystems.”
Main image credit: EAG Antigua, via Daily Mail
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