Napoleon Alive but Critically Endangered on St Helena Island

Thursday 13th November 2014

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 jumping spider Paraheliophanus napoleon (Napoleon jumping spider) named after him that is endemic to the island. Now, almost 200 years after the Emperor’s arrival on the island, conservation staff have declared his namesake Critically Endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species™ (IUCN Red List) guidelines.

The “Bugs on the Brink” project, funded by the UK Government’s Darwin Initiative and supported by Buglife UK (the Invertebrate Conservation Trust), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology UK, St Helena National Trust and St Helena Government, began in February 2013 with the aim to assemble knowledge of the island’s unique bugs whilst training local staff in invertebrate conservation management to help restore native habitats and raise public and children’s awareness of the importance of invertebrates to the environment.

The Napoleon jumping spider, which has only ever been found from four distinct sites around the island associated with Scrubwood (Commidendrum rugosum, itself of Vulnerable status and also only found on St Helena), is one of 14 species from St Helena recently added to the IUCN Red List database along with two others that have had their threat level re-assessed. Sadly, the re-assessment of St Helena’s giant earwig (Labidura herculeana), the world’s largest earwig, has declared it officially Extinct.

Work is now under way to Red List the remaining 400 endemic invertebrate species on the island to help prioritise on-going conservation efforts in habitat restoration and species protection.