Saving the small things that run the planet

Membership costs just £3 per month


Napoleon alive but Critically Endangered on St Helena

Many people will know that Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled in 1815 to the tiny island of St Helena, 1,930 km off the west coast of Africa, but few will know about the Napoleon jumping spider (Paraheliophanus napoleon) named after him that is found there and nowhere else. 

Now, almost 200 years after the Emperor’s arrival on the island, the Bugs on the Brink project has declared his namesake Critically Endangered.

This is part of the work we are doing to highlight the plight of the unique bugs of St Helena and focus conservation efforts. We have been working out how likely they are to become extinct using guidelines from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species™ (IUCN Red List). 

Shadowy chafer (Mellissius adumbratus) © David Pryce

Shadowy chafer (Mellissius adumbratus) © David Pryce

By looking at all the data available on the species, such as the ecology and life cycle of the species, where it can be found and in how many places, its population size and threats to its survival, each species can be put into a category. These threat levels range from ‘Extinct’ to ‘Least Concern’ and include the three main threatened categories of ‘Critically Endangered’, ‘Endangered’ and ‘Vulnerable’. 

During 2014 this work has been a big part of the Bugs on the Brink project and excitingly the first set of 16 species was published by the IUCN in November 2014. 

Sadly, none of the insects we initially assessed were of Least Concern, they are all under some level of threat. We found that the Napoleon jumping spider (Paraheliophanus napoleon), which has only ever been found on St Helena and nowhere else, is Critically Endangered.  The re-assessment of St Helena’s giant earwig (Labidura herculeana), the world’s largest earwig, has declared it officially extinct.

St Helena’s giant earwig (Labidura herculeana) © La Faune Terrestre de L’île de Sainte-Helene

St Helena’s giant earwig (Labidura herculeana) © La Faune Terrestre de L’île de Sainte-Helene

However, all is not lost. Now we have this information species on the brink of extinction can be prioritised for conservation action.  It will help us to hone habitat restoration, explore other options such as captive breeding programmes or relocating species to better habitats as well more easily communicating what action is needed and where.

Find the full list of Red Listed species here.