Banner image: Members of the Cork Hill Reunion Committee, Roland “Jabo” Irish and Hewlett A Williams meet with Montserrat National Trust to discuss the Adopt a Home for Wildlife initiative; Copyright: UKOTCF


This project is a partnership between the Montserrat National Trust and the island community, initiated and supported by UKOTCF. Montserrat is a British Territory which lies 43 km SW of Antigua and 64 km NW of Guadeloupe. It is a volcanic island, 17 km long and 11 km wide, is mountainous, with streams and waterfalls amongst dense tropical vegetation. It was disrupted by a volcanic eruption 20 years ago, and 2/3 of the island is still not inhabitable. The Montserratians have strived not only to replace their homes and work, but also to protect their precious natural environment, on which their sustainable tourism economy depends.

Blackberry (not native, and not closely related to the European species of the same name) has really taken a hold on the fomerly occupied area in the last 20 years. In this area of Cork Hill, there are large stands growing to over 3 metres. The area where this has spread is still relatively small and Mr Irish from the Cork Hill Reunion Committee, set up to regenerate the area after it was destroyed during the volanco, feels that it is important to control it where possible. He was very keen to explore how this could be done in this area to which access has been reinstated, in collaboration with the Trust and UKOTCF. A nearby area overgrown with blackberry might be a good trial removal site, for clearing the area of blackberry trees, and then planting some native trees, such as white cedar Tabebuia heterophylla or lignum vitae.

Montserrat remains a very special place. It still has many unique species found nowhere else on earth. Local bodies have formed many partnerships in order to ensure that its wildlife and habitats are protected and maintained for future generations, given that there are many pressures which threaten their survival such as invasive species (exacerbated by the volcano), physical development not fully integrated with the environment, and those brought about by climate change.

Adopters coordinated by Montserrat Island Dive Centre organise clean-up of beach (above) and underwater (below) habitats, restoring the natural attractive features and improving safety, but also reducing opportunities for invasive plants and animals which threaten native species. Copyright: Montserrat Island Dive Centre).

The aim of the project is to encourage local land-owners, schools and community groups to care for and manage areas of the island to ensure the survival of threatened species and healthy, vibrant ecosystems providing a number of services, including: fresh-water, food, a basis for nature tourism and a sustainable economy, as well as others. Activities include: removal of invasive species (which imperil native species) from land which has become overgrown, and replacement with native plants (and in some cases rare, threatened or endemic species) grown in the botanic garden at the Trust; and clearance of plastics and other rubbish from land, rivers and coastal areas. This pilot for this project has started well, and is proving an effective way of addressing the major problem of saving native vegetation from invasive plants, as well as empowering local people to reinforce their stewardship of the Island. But, to build on this excellent start whose start-up grant has now ended, funding is urgently needed. Funds secured will be used to develop the nursery, work with land-owners on management plans to manage their land, facilitate education and outreach in the community.

 Young broom palms Coccothrinax barbabensis growing at MNT’s native plant nursery; Copyright: UKOTCF

The local persons adopting a home for wildlife donate their time (or may employ, at their own cost, local workers for some aspects). Most of the international coordination and support work is donated by UKOTCF. However, to make use of these voluntary efforts for conservation, funding has to be found for some elements. These include, for example: 

- the cost of building, maintaining and running the nursery to provide native plants to restore these in the adopted areas;

- provision of a qualified specialist co-ordinator to visit the sites, develop guidance on conservation plans, and advise on and monitor implementation, with subsequent adjustments as necessary;

- training days of conservation/cultivation experience for school-students at the botanic gardens, with materials, so that this initiative thrives in the long term;

- expenses of visiting specialist volunteers to run needed courses and assist with particular skills where these are not available locally;

- co-ordination and management of the initiative, seeking additional financial and human resources and other support, where this cannot be fulfilled by the substantial volunteer effort already available.

Montserrat National Trust personnel help school students learn to propagate native plants, in part of a course at the MNT's Botanic Gardens. Copyright: Montserrat National Trust


This project is part of a planned larger programme of work to help Montserratians restore and maintain their unique wildlife despite the challenges that they have been facing with such determination and fortitude. If you are interested in helping to fund these complementary project, do please contact [email protected], which is reached by using the "Contact Us" button at the top of this page. 

In Mr Dwayne Hixon’s Adopt a Home for Wildlife site in an area of new ground formed by volcanic outwash. Here, he has been clearing an area over-run by introduced alien invasive Casuarina trees, which will be replaced by suitable shade-providing native species, grown by Montserrat National Trust. Meanwhile, oher aspects of his works have involved the excavation of the volcanic material adjacent to the old jetty. As a result, seasonal pools formed in the bottom of these, replacing the coastal wetlands totally lost by volcanic action or inappropriate human in-filling elsewhere. Some of the migrant shorebirds rapidly finding this restored habitat: snipe (left), greater yellowlegs (right), with pectoral sandpiper (in front). These species breed in North America. In the case of the pectoral sandpiper, the breeding range spreads from high arctic Canada, through Alaska and across Siberia. It has been discovered recently that individual males may range widely over this arctic range to breed with several females. In some cases, this is across both continents, with one male recorded as travelling 8000 miles within one breeding season. Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Here, we are adding some short videos of examples of Adopt a Home for Wildlife sites. Here is the first, featuring Dwayne Hixon's site at Old Road Bay:

The second features the work of the Cork Hill Reunion Committee in restoring the area of their former homes where access has recently been restored: