St Helena is one of the UK’s Overseas Territories. Sitting between Africa and South America in the South Atlantic Ocean, it is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and has a unique biological heritage.
Often called the ‘Galapagos of the South Atlantic’ the island’s flora and fauna has evolved in extreme isolation, resulting in more than 400 invertebrate species that are not found anywhere else on Earth. That’s more endemic species than the UK and all its other Overseas Territories put together.
What’s been going wrong?
Following its discovery by sailors in 1502, St Helena suffered immense environmental destruction, caused mainly by introducing livestock and cutting down the forest.
Today, much of the island’s unique wildlife is threatened with extinction.
Iconic invertebrates such as the Giant earwig (Labidura herculeana), Giant ground beetle (Aplothorax burchelli) and St Helena darter (a dragonfly – Sympetrum dilatatum) have become extinct within the memory spans of people living on the island now.
The remnants of the native flora and fauna are struggling to survive in tiny fragments. Native invertebrates face a wide range of pressures from non-native wildlife; introduced plants threaten to overwhelm native habitat; introduced mammals like rats and mice and countless introduced invertebrates, such as centipedes and praying mantis either compete with or prey upon native wildlife.