A key aim of this project is sustainability, the Bugs on the Brink work has been specifically designed to increase long term invertebrate conservation work on St Helena. Part of my role out here is to ensure that the project is still fit for purpose and complements the other work being carried out on St Helena.
So, this week I have been meeting our partner organisations on island –St Helena National Trust and St Helena Government. Within the Government, Ben Sansom, the Head of Environmental Management Directorate, is responsible for the ‘environment’ and this includes land-based conservation work and marine conservation. However, he also has responsibility for things such as environmental health, waste, green energy, planning and much more. For real success this project needs to integrate into the everyday work of Ben’s team, so I spent the morning with him finding out more about the long term plans for conservation on St Helena and discussing how best we work together in the future.
For the last 12 months or so the project has been collecting and collating invertebrate data so we have an accurate starting point for our work. We didn’t have this until now. From a total number of 1329 species we have recorded 449 species that are unique to St Helena. This is a staggering proportion! This has given us an idea of what species are where and how rare and endangered they are. As well as feeding into the development of a legal framework to protect the special wildlife on the island, it will also help to inform management plans that are being developed for the island’s Nature Conservation Areas, such as at the Peaks National Park.
As bugs can be fussy little critters, difficult to spot and then identify, guides and identification keys are being put together by David Pryce (also known as Bug Man!) and Liza White who are both part of the project team based on island. David has run training to develop identification skills within the St Helena Government Conservation Teams so they can make sure their work reflects the needs of rare invertebrates too. Another crucial aspect of the Bugs project is working with schools – last year Liza Fowler, our Education Officer, worked with over 200 children on the island running ‘bug lessons’ and over this year hopes to work with teachers to develop outdoor learning resources. I hope that this will help to inspire our next ‘Bug Man’ or ‘Bug Lady’!
All in all the project is really complementing the fantastic conservation work already being done over here, fitting well with the high aspirations for protecting the special wildlife found on St Helena. We have had some great feedback from Ben about the project and some ideas for future work. However most importantly, it has become apparent this week that we are raising the profile of bugs on the island – people are really starting to see that St Helena is the ‘Galapagos of the South Atlantic’.