Making differences abroad

 

JNCC's Tara Pelembe (left) and Deanna Donovan in the field. © JNCC

A conference on conservation in UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies was held on Grand Cayman 30 May - 5 June 2009. Funded by the Department for International Development from the Overseas Territories Environmental Programme (OTEP), the conference was organised by the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum (UKOTCF) and the Caymans Islands Government and National Trust. It was the fifth such conference (the first was held in 1999 in London). Participation included representatives of the Overseas Territories and Crown Dependency governments and non-governmental organisations and the UK government.

 

JNCC representation

Four representatives from JNCC, Dr Deanna Donovan, Deborah Procter, Dr Nikki Chapman and Tara Pelembe attended the conference. It proved an excellent opportunity to meet a number of present and potential collaborators from the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies with whom JNCC works.

 

Resources and side meetings

JNCC displayed a series of banners and distributed CDs and printed materials highlighting the current key areas of focus of the JNCC Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies Programme. In addition, the opportunity was used to hold side meetings. The Overseas Territories Training and Research Steering group (http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-4113) met face-to-face for the first time, with participation from Defra. A number of areas of the programme were discussed, and it was highlighted that short-term and web-based training courses were priority areas. In addition, the Overseas Territories Funding Steering Group (http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-4582) had their first face-to-face meeting and discussed future requirements such as raising awareness of the Overseas Territories  and training requirements. A further, bilateral meeting was held to discuss the Caribbean invasives European funding bid proposal.  

 

JNCC presentations

Tara Pelembe gave a short presentation on the JNCC Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies Programme at the conference, focussing on a recent (March 2009) JNCC contract and workshop on invasive species in the UK Overseas Territories. The workshop and research paper (delivered by Karen Varnham) both attempted to prioritise invasive species in the UK Overseas Territories.

 

Nikki Chapman’s presentation, which served to launch the Overseas Territories Funding Database (www.jncc.gov.uk/otfundingdatabase), was particularly well received. She also used the opportunity to announce JNCC’s forthcoming support for funding applications and provision of training opportunities focussed on improving grant-writing skills.

 

JNCC's Tara Pelembe presents at the conference. ©JNCCDeborah Procter co-chaired, with Bruce Dinwiddie  a session on  climate change in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies and gave an outline presentation on climate change highlighting potential areas of support and advice available from JNCC.  Papers were given by Darren Christie (South Georgia) on invasive species exploiting land areas recently exposed following glacial retreat, Andrew Casebow (Gurnsey) on communicating climate change impacts to the public and Lisa-Ann Hurlston-McKenzie (Cayman Islands) on the use of planning mechanisms, education and outreach to embed climate change awareness and action across society.  This theme of practical responses, i.e. adaptive action, was taken up in general discussion following the presentations.

 

In addition, Deanna Donovan participated on the panel on climate change and engaged various Overseas Territories representatives in discussions regarding the possibility of using economic valuation techniques to provide information in support of environmental management and development of environmental decision and policy making. All found the conference an exceptionally good opportunity to establish and enhance connections with Overseas Territory and Crown Dependency members such as Gibraltar, Jersey and South Georgia, Pitcairn and others.

 

Throughout there was eager discussion of the possibility of expanded inter-island cooperation as well as the potential for enhanced support and collaboration with JNCC.

 

Conservation focus: Grand Caymans’ critically endangered blue iguana Cyclura lewisi

 

Background and threats

The critically endangered blue iguana is endemic to the island of Grand Cayman. Once having a near island-wide distribution, the original wild population has been reduced to a near-extinct remnant confined to the extreme eastern end of Grand Cayman. The most comprehensive survey to date undertaken in 2002, estimated a total wild population in the range of just 10-25 individuals. Their threatened status is a result of the combined influences of habitat conversion, historic hunting, the introduction of non-native predators (rats, cats and dogs) and road kill. An additional issue is that of the presence on Grand Cayman of the non-native green iguana Iguana iguana, which far outnumbers the blue iguana. Although no direct negative consequences of this introduction on the blue iguana are known, the situation confuses public attitudes and understanding.

 

Current recovery efforts

Recovery efforts for the blue iguana are now being implemented through the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme established in 1990, which operates under the auspices of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, with local and international partners. The conservation strategy involves breeding the Blue Iguana in captivity, rearing them to two years old (an age where survival in the wild is high), and using them to rebuild a series of wild subpopulations in protected, managed natural areas (currently the Salina Reserve, and the QE II Botanic Park). This is accompanied by field research, nest site protection, and monitoring of the released animals. To date, the scheme has proved highly successful with the restored subpopulations numbering some 290 individuals, which are breeding without human intervention.  

 

Future conservation

Conserving blue iguanas in the wild will require active management into the indefinite future. The restoration effort must continue, together with habitat protection and invasive species control.  To sustain such activity will require developing sustainable economic activities that benefit the species, successfully obtaining conservation grants, and the creation of a high profile image for the species both locally and internationally through continuation of an ongoing education and awareness effort (reference source www.blueiguana.ky).

 

With many thanks to Rachel White, JNCC’s Overseas Territories intern, for her valuable contribution to Conservation Focus. 

 

 

Dr Nikki Chapman

Overseas Territories Fundraising Officer

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866924

Email: