Identifying Conservation Projects
Working with territories on identifying needs, designing projects to meet these, and seeking resources for implementation of projects is a large part of our work. We are often called upon to provide project management support. This means that, locally, our partners take credit for the work, but that we are able to share the administrative and management requirements of funders, as well as draw on our wide network for various expertise.
These have included a wide range of projects, from quite small, for example:
- finding resources and publishing a guide, mainly for the local school, to make available research information on the wildlife of Tristan da Cunha;
- finding resources for an extension to the museum on St Helena;
- assisting writing a small project proposal for Pitcairn;
- finding funding for the rainwater capture for Montserrat Botanic Gardens (funding coming from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Society);
- providing skilled, specialist volunteers for e.g. Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas, St Helena, Montserrat, Ascension and the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI);
- finding resources for developing, writing, illustrating and publishing the Birding in Paradise guide-book series, which supports sustainable tourism and local awareness in the islands of TCI and in Montserrat;
- bird trail development in TCI;
- finding resources for and developing, with Turks & Caicos National Museum, the Wise Water Use Garden;
- working with partners to develop a proposal, which was awarded a grant from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Project, for Montserrat and Tristan da Cunha to digitalise images and historic documents;
- a great deal of pro bono advice in response to requests from territory governments and NGOs, as well as UK Government (some of the latter very time-demanding, such as advice on projects and grants to FCO and DFID, and providing DCMS with a member of the Expert Panel on a new Tentative List of UK World Heritage Sites);
… to quite large, e.g.
- developing, with local teachers, a curriculum and courses on the importance of water and wetlands in Turks & Caicos Islands (part-funded by UK Government via OTEP);
- coordinating an international team to study, propose, and help implement conservation measures and interpretive facilities in the Turks and Caicos Islands (part-funded by UK Government and other sources);
- developing a joint proposal which secured EU funding for the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands for enhancing conservation and interpretation in protected areas;
- reviewing the existing and potential Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention across all UKOTs and CDs, in partnership with local governments and NGOs (part-funded by DEFRA);
- working with local partners in Montserrat and identifying external specialists to fill several gaps in conservation needs, including improving the integration of environment into physical planning, development of local volunteer initiatives to conserve local areas, making available in an easy online form important data from previous visiting scientists and establishing this as a continuing process, and facilitating agreement across all parties as to the preferred future for the southern two thirds of the island currently in a volcanic exclusion zone [Forum News 45 and 46];
- building up and maintaining (through continual communications, UKOTCF’s regional working groups, and working conferences) the network of unpaid organisations and experts that provide much help and advice to conservation in the territories;
- three reviews of progress in meeting Environment Charter Commitments (and, in 2016, including also Aichi Targets and Sustainable Development Goals (the first review with part- funding from UK Government);
- providing technical and editing advice and additional images and material to documentary maker Stewart McPherson on his journey to Britain’s Treasure Islands;
- resourcing, planning and implementing 6 conferences for conservation practitioners and decision-makers in the UKOTs (the first 5 with major funding contributions from UK Government).
Ascension Island restoration programme – in focus
After many years of work by various stakeholders on and off island, including UKOTCF, in 2012 the Ascension Island frigate bird, Fregata aquila began nesting on the mainland once again. The birds had been limited to nesting on several stacks off the mainland due to the presence of feral animals, mainly cats. The programme aimed to restore the mainland to habitat suitable for nesting frigate birds. This involved the removal of feral cats. The programme started in the early 2000s and it highlights the need for a long-term vision, multi-stakeholder engagement and a responsive funder.
There were so many working behind the scenes in crucial roles including, UKOTCF, the RSPB and officers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. UKOTCF and RSPB’s main role was to make the case that HMG was missing a huge opportunity to show that the mistakes of earlier centuries in fragile oceanic islands (when impacted by man, otherwise very resilient) could be corrected. UKOTCF colleagues had been encouraging the FCO on the subject for some time; Philip and Myrtle Ashmole had done the scientific fieldwork to show how important Ascension, not just tiny Boatswainbird Island, was for global biodiversity.
Crucially, when suddenly was a three-week window of opportunity to bid for some FCO funding released near the end of a financial year because of an unrelated major project that could not proceed, UKOTCF & RSPB were able to rush up to FCO colleagues with a detailed proposal with a realistic budget. Diplomatic discussions with the Cat Protection League agreed that there was no alternative to removing the feral cats from Ascension (not to do so, would result in the continuing deaths of far more cats). The project received also the support of the Head of the FCO’s Environment Policy Department. A dedicated on-the-ground team was responsible for its implementation including experts from New Zealand and a newly developed Ascension Conservation Department.
A Species Action Plan has been developed for the frigate bird and updates in 2015, which forms part of its National Biodiversity Action Plan. The population of frigate birds is stable and is IUCN Red Listed as Vulnerable.