Conservation Successes of 2017

2017 was a year filled with successes in conservation. Listed here are just a few of the accomplishments Island Conservation, our supporters, partners, and friends are celebrating this year.

By: Emily Heber

Acteon and Gambier Archipelagos, French Polynesia

Five remote Pacific islands are once again safe havens for four of our world’s rarest bird species following the success of one of the most ambitious island restoration projects ever implemented. Conservation efforts in Acteon and Gambier have now more than doubled the safe, available habitat for the Polynesian Ground-dove (Alopecoenas erythropterusand the Tuamotu Sandpiper (Prosobonia cancellata).

The Polynesian Ground-dove, which is locally known as the Tutururu, is one of the rarest birds on the planet with fewer than 200 individuals left. Predation and competition by damaging, non-native (invasive) mammals in French Polynesia have driven these rare, endemic bird species to the brink of extinction. Now, these species have five islands where they can thrive without the threat of predation by invasive species.


A male Polynesian Ground-Dove. Credit: Island Conservation

Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico

After more than a decade of conservation intervention, Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is once again safe for the Threatened Higo Chumbo cactus, native seabirds, and unique lizards found nowhere else in the world. Over 100 years ago, the island was a thriving nesting ground for thousands of native seabirds. Approximately 15,000 Brown Boobies, 2,000 Red-footed Boobies (Sula sula), 2,000 Brown Noddies (Anous stolidus), 1,500 Bridled Terns (Onychoprion anaethetus), and hundreds of Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens), Laughing Gulls (Larus atricilla), and Sooty Terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) nested here.

After the introduction of invasive mammals such as goats and rats, the islands seabird population and native vegetation began to dwindle until almost no seabirds were nesting in the refuge. Now, after a decade of conservation interventions, the island is beginning to rebound. Seabirds are returning and the Threatened Higo Chumbo cactus is beginning to show new growth.


An endemic male Desecheo Anole. Credit: Eric Oberg

Cabritos Island, Dominican Republic

Cabritos is an island within a saltwater lake that is home to two species of threatened iguanas: the Critically Endangered Ricord’s Iguana and the Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana. Although the individuals are impressive in size, their populations began to dwindle as invasive feral cats and donkeys destroyed nests, preyed on juveniles, and damaged their critical habitat. The Ricord’s Iguana and Rhinoceros Iguana are the only two rock iguanas that overlap in their natural range. Both species have been declining in the Caribbean due to invasive species and habitat loss.

After years of conservation efforts, these two species now have safe habitat on Cabritos Island. This island ecosystem is now the only place on Earth where the Critically Endangered Ricord’s Iguana can roam free from the threat of feral cats, donkeys, and cows. These threatened iguanas survive as four populations, with three in the Southwest of the Dominican Republic and one in Haiti.

Cyclura cornuta iguana republica dominicana Francisco Javier Tadeo Domínguez Brito

Rhinoceros Iguana native to Cabritos Island, Dominican Republic. Credit: Island Conservation

Ngeanges Island, Palau

Megapodes are one of the many native species that call Ngeanges. This year a captive holding program has helped to save the rare birds. Ngeanges is currently in the monitoring phase after the removal of invasive rodents has paved the way for native species to thrive. The Palauan Megapode is not an officially recognized species, but due to their unique nesting habitat, many researchers believe they are endemic to this islands.

The small birds are highly vulnerable to invasive predators the moment the chicks dig themselves out of their nesting mounds. Although the species has a long way to go in terms of recovery, conservationists are hopeful that the captive holding program has protected them and will allow them to thrive in the absence of invasive rodents.


Micronesian Megapode on a branch. Credit: Island Conservation

Featured Photo: Endangered Tuamotu Sandpiper. Credit: Marie-Helen Burle/Island Conservation

About Emily Heber

Emily is a recent graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a BS in Zoology. As a student, she discovered that she had a passion for the conservation of endangered species and their ecosystems. Her background in informal education has allowed her the opportunity to share her passion for animals with others, something she seeks to continue doing while working with the communication team. In her spare time, Emily enjoys exploring the amazing hiking trails found in Santa Cruz and tries to SCUBA dive whenever possible. Emily is excited to join the Island Conservation team and to help share the amazing work that is being done here.

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