Although Redonda has been officially declared invasive species-free, it is still at a sensitive time in its restoration period and the public should handle it delicately.
That’s the word from members of the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) who played a leading role in its rehabilitation.
Redonda, the often-forgotten isle in the unitary state of Antigua and Barbuda, was granted protected area status under the Environmental Protection and Management Act 2019 last week.
This declaration was the result of a body of work, jointly carried out by numerous local and international organisations dating back to 2009.
Coordinator for the Redonda Ecosystem Reserve, Johnella Bradshaw, spoke on Observer’s Big Issues show about why it is important to protect Redonda.
“Redonda is a magical place; it is one of the largest uninhabited islands in the Eastern Caribbean…over there is just an ecological haven,” she said.
News of Redonda’s restoration and protected status has been applauded globally with internationally renowned actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, writing on Facebook, “what was once a barren ‘moonscape’ has now been rejuvenated as a gem of the Caribbean… Congratulations to everyone who made this happen and who continue to work together on a range of actions to support Redonda’s bio-diversity including monitoring the recovery of native species and the marine environment.”
One of the major projects carried out on Redonda was the rewilding of the island which included the removal of thousands of invasive species, such as rats and goats.
“We removed all the rats and relocated all the goats, and in a matter of months, the vegetation started to grow back and that’s all we did.
“We didn’t bring anything over, we didn’t sprinkle any fertiliser, we didn’t cast any spells, all we did was remove what was not supposed to be there and the island restored itself,” Bradshaw said.
EAG Executive Director Arica Hill warned the public against seeking to recklessly visit the island as it is still in a sensitive position.
“If you are on a boat and think like ‘I am going to show up on Redonda’, you don’t know if a rat has been hidden away on your boat and while you are off gallivanting, the rat swims happily over to Redonda, can see all these—and probably smell all of those—lovely birds and their eggs.
“If that rat is pregnant, that is it; we are going to see that population just explode and the cost for rewilding Redonda is extremely high,” Hill said.
She explained that the group will be establishing surveillance cameras and collaborating with the Coast Guard to ensure that persons are not inadvertently entering the reserve’s areas.
She said the EAG – which will manage the protected area – will also be establishing a high-end tourism sector for persons interested in seeing the island for themselves.
“So, most of the activities in terms of visiting Redonda are through the EAG, so we are very open to persons coming along with us for a fee.
“What we are doing is setting a tourism system around Redonda and it’s not going to be US$150 to go over; it’s going to cost a lot of money,” Hill added.
But ordinary people will be able to visit the island through a raffle that the Redonda management team is looking to host during its celebrations at the Department of Environment on September 30.