St Helena Online

Tag: Ascension Island

Fund for Ascension shark victim reaches double its target

More than $10,000 has been raised for Kawika Matsu, the victim of a shark attack in English Bay on Ascension Island. That is double the initial target – which was raised within 24 hours.

The 37-year-old contract worker suffered severe lacerations to his torso on July 25 after being attacked within seconds of falling from his paddle board.

Click here to read about the attack on the Daily Telegraph website

Daniel Schempp, until recently head of the 45 Space Wing of the US Air Force on Ascension, started the fund to help meet the costs of his friend Kawika’s long recovery.

In a Facebook update, he posted: “Kawika made it back to Florida.

“He’s doing well, going to be in and out of surgeries and his family arrived. He’s absolutely floored and deeply touched by all the support. Thank you to everyone who gave of themselves financially, socially or in prayers!

“I am honored to have known such a community, it speaks volumes about the quality of Ascension and all her people.”

Saints were among those who made generous donations.

Click here to make a donation

Voyage to investigate illegal fishing off Ascension: reporting ban on St Helena media is lifted

extractor 640

A criminal investigation has been carried out into illegal fishing around Ascension Island.

But the media on St Helena were banned from reporting on an investigatory expedition aboard the MFV Extractor until it was over (archive picture by Bruce Salt).

No details of the operation have emerged from official sources at the time of writing.

An injunction was served on Mike Olsson, editor of the St Helena Independent, and Saint FM Community Radio, to prevent them reporting on the voyage for fear of alerting the operators of illegal fishing vessels.

Other media on the island were also bound by the injunction.

Chief magistrate John MacRitchie said in his court judgement that the media would be “unlikely to potentially interfere with the course of justice, if the situation is explained to them”.

He said acting attorney general Angelo Berbotto had failed to explain why the media should avoid reporting the voyage of the MFV Extractor.

He also rebuked Mike Olsson for giving a forthright response to a threatening email from Mr Berbotto. This was blamed for a breakdown in communications that prompted Mr Berbotto to take the extraordinary and draconian step of seeking an injunction at the 11th hour, disrupting publication of the 5 February 2016 edition of the St Helena Independent.

In his judgement in the case, Mr MacRitchie said the injunction would mean inhibiting the freedom of the press – “an extremely important right”.

But he said this was outweighed by the need to prevent “interference with the detection of serious crimes, which are specifically said to be taking place around Ascension  island.”

The affair has raised a number of human rights issues that are expected to be examined in the coming days.

There is also likely to be scrutiny of the actions of Mr Berbotto and the legal service on St Helena.

  • COMMENT: Responsible efforts by St Helena Online to find out the scope of reporting restrictions were unsuccessful. This resulted in the site being unable to report on matters of clear public interest that could, in fact, have been made public, without risk of perverting the course of justice. This became clear when a copy of the court judgement was received on Friday, 4 March 2016, only a day before the injunction would expire. I regard this obstruction as an unwarranted restraint on my human right to freedom of expression and will be considering my response. Simon Pipe, owner, St Helena Online


More action planned on illegal fishing – minister

The UK government is planning to step up efforts to investigate illegal fishing around St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, it has been revealed.

The House of Lords heard that short term patrols and satellite monitoring are already used to track fishing vessels around the islands.

But it appears the islands do not yet benefit from oversight by the UK’s National Maritime Information Centre – set up in 2011 to detect dangers such as sea-borne terrorist threats.

The centre does protect waters around two other overseas territories chosen as Marine Protected Zone – and a third such zone is planned for Ascension, suggesting it may get similar protection.

Lord West of Spithead
Lord West of Spithead

The information was disclosed by foreign minister Baroness Anelay in response to a question by Lord West of Spithead on 3 February 2016.

He asked whether the new agency “is providing comprehensive surface coverage of the exclusive economic zones of dependent territories to ensure wildlife and resource protection; and how those zones are policed, in particular around Tristan da Cunha, Ascension Island and St Helena.”

Baroness Anelay replied that the centre was helping to investigate illegal and unregulated fishing around the British Indian Ocean Territory – meaning the Chagos Islands – and Pitcairn, in the Pacific Ocean.

She said: “Overseas territories are policed in a variety of ways as marine management is a devolved responsibility.

“In St Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha, a variety of surveillance and enforcement measures are deployed, including satellite monitoring, vessel tracking, short term patrols and observer coverage of fishing vessels.

“Potential enhancements to surveillance and enforcement requirements for the UK’s 14 overseas territories are being considered as part of the government’s commitment to create a Blue Belt around these territories.”

The planned Blue Belt of protected waters around all UK overseas territories was announced with great fanfare at a reception at the House of Commons in September 2015.

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith declared it “the biggest conservation commitment by any government ever.”


It includes a plan to create a vast protected zone around Ascension, with only limited sustainable fishing allowed – similar to zones already established or announced round the Chagos and Pitcairn islands.

“Blue belt” marine conservation zones, with lesser protection, are promised for all other territories, including St Helena.

People at the launch event heard how satellite and radar data are being used to detect fishing vessels by tracking the pattern of their movements.

The technique is described in a news report on the website of the Blue and Green Tomorrow campaign group.

It says: “Analysts can track declared fishing vessels and monitor the behaviour of undeclared ones.

“Container ships and cruise liners tend to go in straight lines. Fishing vessels tend to hover where there are fish. If a ship exhibits suspicious behaviour the relevant authority can be notified.”

The site says: “Industrial fishing ships can stay at sea for months refuelling and offloading stock mid-ocean. A quarter of all fishing is illegal. But the world’s oceans are a notoriously difficult place to monitor and protect.”

Lord West is a former Royal Navy officer who rose to become First Sea Lord and later Chief of Defence Intelligence.

He is also chairman of Spearfish, a company the helps clients “manage physical security risks – both on land and at sea.”

His listed interests include defence and the environment, and overseas territories in the South Atlantic.

Read more:
Biggest ever conservation commitment: UK overseas territories’ Blue Belt

(Original image of Lord West from Wikimedia Commons)

St Helena gets first female governor – after 359 years

Lisa Phillips, by ILRI/Riccardo Gangale (under Creative Commons licence)
Lisa Phillips, by ILRI/Riccardo Gangale (under Creative Commons licence)

Lisa Phillips is to be the first female governor of St Helena since the job was first created more than 350 years ago, in 1657. She also becomes non-resident governor of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.

Indy on Lisa Phillips front
The St Helena Independent hinted in October 2015 that Lisa Phillips could become governor

Her appointment will have come as no surprise to social media users or readers of the St Helena Independent.

The newspaper ran a teasing editorial on 2 October 2015, saying that it was time the island had a female governor – and “suggesting” Ms Phillips as an ideal choice.

It highlighted her forthright campaigning on women’s issues and AIDS in her role as head of Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) team in Kenya.

Six days before Christmas, she appeared to endorse the story by following a number of island-based users on the messaging website Twitter.

Shortly after the news was made official in London, she posted her own online announcement:

“So excited to share with my Twitter followers where my next job is. Such a privilege!”

A congratulatory message was quickly posted by Christina Scott, governor of Anguilla – another UK overseas territory in the Caribbean.

Twitter Lisa Phillips Anguilla

Lisa Phillips tweets and blogs regularly on issues such as open justice and ending female genital mutilation in Africa. She has promised to continue publishing her thoughts online in her new role.

Her emergence on Twitter as likely governor came just over a week after the Wass Inquiry report severely criticised the island government, and governor Mark Capes, for “inexcusably and repeatedly” repeatedly failing to act on warnings about child welfare.

Indy Phillips ragout
How the Indy hinted at Lisa Phillips’s future job

It also dismissed allegations of widespread sex abuse and official cover-ups.

The report found Governor Capes had not been adequately briefed on the existence of previous reports raising concerns about child safeguarding, and said his successor must be given stronger guidance.

The Independent editorial in October 2015 highlighted Ms Phillips’s work on issues similar to those found on St Helena.

As head of DFID Kenya, she describes her team’s work on “improving health, increasing the quality of education, reducing vulnerability among Kenya’s most disadvantaged, and catalysing private sector growth to create more jobs for young people.”

Twitter Lisa Phillips pic

She adds: “I’ve worked for DFID for more years than I care to mention in a variety of jobs, both in the UK and overseas.”

By 1984 she had worked with the Overseas Development Agency – fore-runner of DFID – in several countries in Southern Africa, before joining the ODA teams covering India, Barbados and South East Asia.

Managerial roles in the United Nations and Commonwealth Department were followed by work on migration. In 2011 she was made head of DFID’s department dealing with fragile states, and the following year, its lead on anti-corruption.

She became head of DFID Kenya in 2013.

Her appointment as governor of St Helena marks a break from the long-established tradition of appointing diplomats from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – a practice questioned in the Wass Report, which said the island needed a hands-on manager.

twitter Lisa Phillips congrats

Governor Andrew Gurr had also been recruited from outside the FCO, but he had served in a senior job on the Falklands.

When he left in 2011, the role was given to Mark Capes, an FCO man who will now take up another diplomatic posting. The location was not made public, but one Facebook user on St Helena undiplomatically wished him well in Antarctica.

The Independent’s October 2015 editorial suggested Mr Capes had focused his energies on the island’s airport project at the cost of addressing its pressing social needs – a view echoed by the Wass Report.

It said:

“Credit where it’s due: for Mr Capes, the airport has been the big job, and it’s been a success. But now we have some more human problems to address.

“So we’d like someone who knows about improving education, and has done something about it. We have an educated idea who that could be.

“We’re not all sex abusers, but there are too many victims of abuse. SHG’s style is to keep telling us how everything’s getting better, but we need someone who is actually willing to stand up and say, Yes, there’s a problem, because it was a failure to be open that allowed it to go on for so long.

“We want someone who is willing to stand up and say, out loud, “I want to end violence against women and girls.”

“Someone who’s willing to say, “Justice has to be seen to be done – and be done.” Someone who has actually spent time with the victims of sex crimes would be good, too.

“We know someone who’s said all that, and done all that.

“We never acknowledge there’s a problem with HIV on St Helena, but… there’s a problem with HIV. Too many people have the virus and for all we know, the number has gone up since work on the airport started.

“So we need someone who’s got experience of confronting that awful problem; someone who’s willing to admit it exists. Maybe someone who’s worked in Africa?”

Indy Phillips ragout end
The Independent in October 2015: one last attempt to make friends with Governor Capes?

Once the news of Ms Phillips’ appointment was out in the open, well-wishers in Kenya and around the world congratulated her.

She told one: “I will miss #magicalkenya so much, especially all the people I have met.”

  • Lisa Phillips is not merely the first woman to be chosen as head of state and representative of Her Majesty the Queen on St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha: she will also be the first governor of the territory to have given birth. She has one son.

See more pictures at the Brits in Kenya website


Flights: chief sec admits doubts over medical care and crime

St Helena’s chief secretary has admitted to concerns about notorious crime at the airport that is to be the island’s link with the rest of the world – and about the future of medical referrals to Cape Town.

But Roy Burke could offer little response to an accusation of a “shameful” betrayal of Saints working on Ascension and the Falkland Islands, who could be left with no ship and no flights back to St Helena.

Comair Ltd will not offer a link to Ascension when St Helena’s first airport opens in 2016, because it would take pilots over their permitted flying time.

The Honourable Lawson Henry voiced anger, during Legislative Council’s closing adjournment debate, that Saints on sister islands had been left out.

He said it was their votes that had swung the referendum in favour of building an airport.

He also told how he had had his luggage interfered with at the airport, which is notorious for crime.

Mr Burke, in his closing speech, said: “We are all aware of Johannesburg airport’s issues. We will take action to make sure the citizens of St Helena and the travelling public are aware of the issues that are faced there.”

The Honourable Dr Corinda Essex had also voiced anxiety about whether hospital patients would still be sent to Cape Town, where a strong support network had built up among Saints and supporters. Johannesburg had no such network, she said.

Mr Burke said: “I too share that concern, as does the director for health, and we are currently in progress to find a way in which we can resolve that situation.

“Can the link to Cape Town be maintained? That’s a very good question and  I don’t have a short answer to that at the moment.

“But I would say that as far as medical referral issues are concerned, it does not necessarily mean that because Comair are flying to Johannesburg, that Johannesburg would be our evacuation point for a medical emergency, which is a different issue.

“It’s possible someone who needed to be evacuated very urgently might have to go somewhere else, and that might not be Cape Town either. So there’s a lot of work going on there to do with medical evacuation, which has yet to be concluded.”

Mr Burke could give little reassurance over future transport for Saint workers travelling for work on Ascension and the Falkland Islands.

They are to lose their current link between St Helena and Ascension – and onward flights to the Falklands – when the RMS is withdrawn from service in mid 2016.

The chief secretary said: “There are ongoing discussions about Ascension, particularly the link with St Helena: whether that is to be by air or sea. [There is] a lot of discussion to be had.

“Keep in mind that St Helena Government, in seeking to secure an air service provider, and also a freight service, included Ascension in the tender documents, although there was no requirement for those companies to provide [for that] as part of the contact.

“But those discussions continue and will continue until a resolution is found.”

Councillors Henry and Essex were among several elected members to welcome the news that Comair was to operate Saturday flights between St Helena and Johannesburg in a British Airways plane.

Saturday flights in BA livery confirmed for St Helena
‘Shameful’: workers left adrift by lack of Ascension flights
Don’t cast aside ‘family’ of carers in Cape Town, officials urged
I had my bag pilfered at Johannesburg, says Lawson
Ronnie takes flight
Flights to Europe and Cape Town ‘still up in the air’
Blast masters: Alan and co fire the last explosion on aircraft site

‘Shameful’: workers left adrift by lack of Ascension flights

Saints working on Ascension could face a 15,000-mile trip to get home – just 700 miles away – if the fears of one St Helena councillor are realised.

The Hon Derek Thomas spoke in response to news that the newly announced air service for St Helena will not include flights to Ascension. The RMS St Helena is due to make its last voyage between the islands in mid-2016.

Chief secretary Roy Burke said efforts were still being made to find a replacement link – by air or sea.

Mr Thomas told fellow councillors: “Saints flying up to the UK from Ascension and the Falkland Islands [and then] to Johannesburg will simply not work.

“We need to have an agreement in place to take account of Saints working both on Ascension and [the Falklands] to enable them to continue their careers on these islands and be able to return to St Helena.”

The Hon Lawson Henry said it was “shameful” that flights to Ascension – connecting with the Royal Air Force service between the UK and the Falklands – had not been agreed in the contract with Comair.

He said: “Let us remember how it became possible for St Helena to have air access, as opposed to continuing with shipping, when the referendum was taken all those years ago.

“Saints living on Ascension and the Falklands took part in the referendum and it was only because of their vote we were able to get a majority in favour of air access. I was one of those Saints voting.

“We did so because we were told there would be a link to Ascension.

“This is something our government has failed to acknowledge, and it is shameful.

“All those announcements last week make no mention of those Saints on Ascension and the Falklands. They have simply been forgotten, even though they continue to make significant contributions to St Helena.

“They own property on St Helena and continue to pay taxes on this property where it is rented.

“This government and the British government need to acknowledge the contribution made by these Saints. By not doing so there is going to be a continual black cloud over air access and it will distract [from] what should be the most important time in our history.”

The Hon Corinda Essex said the lack of a link with Ascension was “the biggest elephant in the room”.

And she feared work opportunities on Ascension and the Falklands would be lost without a replacement for the RMS – just as job contracts end with the completion of St Helena’s airport.

“The loss of offshore jobs could spell disaster to economic growth on St Helena,” she said.

  • According to various websites, the distances are: Ascension to the UK, 3,559 miles; London to Johannesburg, 5,645 miles; Jo’burg to St Helena, 2,283 miles. Add 3,800 miles for those flying from the Falklands to Ascension, and a tricky 60-mile journey across southern England between RAF Brize Norton and London Heathrow – with no connecting flight. The total journey time would be well over 24 hours.

Flights to Europe and Cape Town ‘still up in the air’

a-star-640Direct flights between Europe, St Helena and Cape Town remain a possibility, even though the island’s government has chosen to work with an airline that will link only with Johannesburg.

A report on an aviation intelligence website says that the rival Atlantic Star is still considering operating on its own routes – including to Ascension.

The naming of the South African firm Comair as preferred bidder has been greeted with disappointment because the island has no established links with Johannesburg – feared for its reputation as a “murder capital”.

Saints have been settling in Cape Town for more than 100 years and a strong network of support has built up, especially for islanders travelling to the Mother City for medical care.

When the UK-based Atlantic Star went public with its plan two years ago it said it could operate without a government subsidy.

The report on the ch-aviation website said: “Start-up Atlantic Star Airlines has also expressed an interest in connecting the remote island with London using a B757-200 leased from Icelandair.

“The carrier is also planning to offer flights to Georgetown Wideawake [on] Ascension Island and Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands, as well as flights to West and South Africa.”

There has been no public statement from Atlantic Star yet.

St Helena Government has been quoted in the media saying it would have an open skies policy – meaning it would not prevent other operators from flying into St Helena International airport, even in competition with its own partner airline.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 00.20.00But industry observers say that for a rival airline to pay its own way, without government funding, there would have to be more tourist accommodation on the island than is expected by 2016.

The Shelco plan for a five-star eco resort on the island is apparently on hold, and a scheme by the Mantis group to convert Ladder Hill Fort into a boutique hotel has so far come to nothing.

St Helena Government pushed forward its own scheme to convert Georgian offices in Jamestown into a hotel to try to make sure there will be tourist accommodation on the island once its airport opens in early 2016.

But it is thought the Main Street hotel would not bring enough tourists to make an unsubsidised service take off.

Ironically, the UK media has speculated that Mantis and Shelco were both waiting for confirmation of direct flights to Europe before starting work on their plans.

Atlantic Star founder Richard Brown said in 2013 that wealthy tourists would not be willing to change planes to visit St Helena when destinations such as Barbados could be reached on a single flight.

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was long believed to favour a direct service only to South Africa. Media reports spoke of flights to Cape Town, though changing plans at Johannesburg instead would cut down the overall journey time to Europe.

Reaction among Saints and island-watchers has been uneasy, especially over the news that the service would operate out of O.R. Tambo International Airport.

One source said that it “tops the world airports league for most lost and pilfered luggage.”

But a comment received by St Helena Online from a writer under the name Latinflyer says: “O.R. Tambo International Airport Johannesburg has been awarded the top spot as the best airport [of] 2014 in Africa and is handling more than 17 Million passengers each year.”

Island businessman John Turner “I’d like to know what will happen to medical referrals. Will they fly to Jo’burg then fly to Cape Town, or will we move to a hospital in Jo’burg?

“The people who’ve invested in accommodation business for Saints in Cape Town must be pretty brassed off.”

One expert consulted by St Helena Online said the choice of Comair as preferred bidder was no surprise: “It was the worst-kept secret that DFID ever had. They have been talking to Comair for the past 10 years.

“Comair themselves have done nothing proactive whatsoever to express or advance any interest they might have in St Helena. So far as is known, they have never sent anybody to the island, or been involved in any way other than to receive the repeated overtures of DFID and SHG to become involved.

“It is certain that DFID/SHG would have lobbied hard for Cape Town to be the selected hub, but such representations have clearly failed.

“Absolutely NOBODY on-island wants to go to Johannesburg: Saints hate the place. Who wouldn’t be wary of the murder capital of the world?”

Ascension does not appear to be included on the flight plan for Comair, and it is thought there may be problems making Wideawake Airfield suitable for civilian aircraft. It is not clear how Saints would travel to and from jobs on Ascension – a vital part of St Helena’s economy.

South Africa’s Comair to begin talks with St Helena Government – ch-aviation website
South African firm is first choice as island airline
St Helena airport: first plane to land in July 2015

Exactly who is – or was – St Helena’s mystery prosecutor?

The identity of the “Public Prosecutor of St Helena” remains a mystery, two weeks after the unnamed lawyer was cited in a statement about a criminal investigation into four former government staff.

No appointment to the role has been reported in the Government Gazette, which records all public service job changes.

The puzzle arose after two UK social workers and former Attorney General Frank Wastell were cleared of criminal conduct in an adoption case on Ascension Island. A fourth person, who has never been publicly identified, was also cleared.

St Helena Government says the adoption case has not been closed and no details can legally be discussed. The criminal investigation arose from the judge’s concerns about the conduct of officials involved in the hearing.

The statement announcing the outcome of the inquiry made fresh criticisms of the people involved, and attributed them to an independent counsel – an unnamed barrister.

St Helena Government was asked last week to name the two lawyers who had given opinions on the affair, but did not do so. It said: “No personal details will be provided as to the identity of any individuals concerned.”

However, the statement by current Attorney General Nicola Moore said one of the counsel, who reviewed police evidence, had been “appointed as Public Prosecutor of St Helena specifically to undertake this task”.

Yesterday, the press office in The Castle was asked to name “all people who have held the office of Public Prosecutor of St Helena in the past 12 months”.

The email from St Helena Online added: “This is a public office and must be a matter of public record.”

By the end of the day, a response was still awaited.

One source with knowledge of procedures on the island told St Helena Online: “Such appointments are made by the Governor and are supposed to be listed in the St Helena Government Gazette.

“Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough. but I’ve not found any such appointment being so listed.”

Martin Warsama, one of the two UK social workers cleared in the police investigation, said he could not understand the government’s apparent reluctance to name the holder of a public office on the island.

He said he could not feel confident the counsel concerned was truly independent if he was not even allowed to know their name.

Mr Warsama has written to the Attorney General demanding to know the basis of criticisms made about the people cleared in the adoption case – and to ask why he was not told about them before they were made public.

He has also demanded to know the name of the two lawyers involved in the investigation.

St Helena Online has not asked the Attorney General herself to name the lawyers and it is not suggested that she has declined to do so.

If neither name is revealed, attempts will be made to obtain them through other channels as a matter of public interest.

Criminal investigation clears sex abuse whistle-blowers
MP voices concerns as police investigate their accusers

After a ‘terrifying’ year, whistle-blower talks of retribution
At last, the truth about Attorney General being suspended
Top barrister to investigate sex abuse ‘cover up’ claims

Net saving? Ascension no-fishing zone could cost £3m – or not

Creating one of the world’s biggest marine protection zones around Ascension Island could cost the UK about £3 million a year – at a Conservative estimate.

The conservationist estimate, on the other hand, is only £400,000 a year.

12 The Great WetropolisClick the pic to see a gallery of Ascension marine life

Celebrities and academics have joined with conservation groups in calling on the British government to create three massive maritime “parks” in the Atlantic and South Pacific, with a complete ban on commercial fishing.

The Tory Foreign Minister Hugo Swire has said the likely cost of full enforcement could be judged from the £2.75m spent each year patrolling a reserve in the Indian Ocean.

Policing the seas was even more expensive around South Georgia, “where a patrol vessel alone costs approximately £3.2m per year,” he said in a Commons Written Answer on 9 February 2015.

But the environment writer Charles Clover has put the cost at a mere £400,000 a year, according to The Guardian website.

Thanks to satellite technology, it would not be necessary to have a patrol boat out searching vast areas of ocean for pirate fishing vessels, he told the site.

The Guardian also reported that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had begun discussions with people on Ascension about creating a reserve.

It understood that “indigenous” fishing would be allowed up to 18 miles offshore. That may not reassure keen sport fishermen on Ascension, which officially has no permanent or “indigenous” population.

The Blue Marine Foundation has spear-headed a campaign to have three marine reserves created around Ascension, the Southern Atlantic territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands, and the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific.

It says they would protect 1.75 million square kilometres of ocean – expanding the total area of ocean reserves by 50 per cent.

The foundation describes Ascension’s warm waters as “a green turtle Mecca and one of the last remaining hotspots for Atlantic megafauna such as tuna, marlin and shark.”

A campaign letter has been signed by 42 conservation bodies, including Birdlife International, the RSPB, Greenpeace UK, the Zoological Society of London, and the less-well-known Fin Fighters UK and Fish Fight.

The actresses Greta Scacchi, Dame Helena Bonham Cater, Julie Christie and Zoe Wanamaker have added their names to those of leading scientists and environmental figures in the letter to the UK government.

The foundation said in a statement: “More than 94 per cent of the UK’s biodiversity is found in its overseas territories.

“Rare whales, turtles, fish, penguins, corals and albatrosses are among the wildlife that would benefit if the reserves were to be set up.”

Ascension’s underwater wonders revealed
UK ‘doesn’t even know’ about eco threats, say MPs
St Helena tops the league table for unique species
Blue Marine Foundation – press release
Conservationists call for UK to create world’s largest marine reserve – The Guardian
Cost of patrolling Ascension reserve – Commons Written Answer

£180,000 raised in battle to save rare species

An appeal for money to save threatened species in UK overseas territories – including St Helena’s spiky yellow woodlouse – has raised three quarters of its £240,000 target.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds urges would-be donors to support “a team effort” with conservationists, governments and local people.

When the appeal was launched, the organisation’s website said the St Helena Olive tree was the most recent species to be lost.

Since then, the island’s giant earwig has also been declared extinct.

The appeal page says:

St Helena’s precious cloud forest is home to the black cabbage tree, which grows in only one place – and only 250 square metres are left. This habitat is the only place where the spiky yellow woodlouse is found. There are fewer than 50 woodlice left, living on just 20 ferns. We’re creating an artificial forest canopy to keep the ferns the way the woodlice like them.

The Tristan albatross is only found in this territory, with all except two pairs nesting on Gough Island. It’s on the brink of extinction, and sadly introduced house mice eat albatross chicks alive and in total kill over half a million seabird chicks here every year. We’re working on ways of getting rid of the mice.

We’re also taking steps to save the severely endangered Wilkins’ bunting, which only lives on one tiny island in the entire world, Nightingale. There are only 80 pairs in existence, so we’re helping them by planting more of their favourite trees.

The RSPB says a £15 donation can fund a square metre of shade canopy in the St Helena cloud forest.

The website also has a 17-minute film, Invaders of the UK Overseas Territories, about the diversity of Britain’s far-off islands and the threat posed by alien species. St Helenian conservationist Stedson Stroud is shown, telling how seabirds have returned to Ascension after the eradication of feral cats.

Read about the UK overseas territories appeal
Watch the Invaders film

Lost chance to save the giant earwig
Rare island woodlouse ‘is just hanging on’
Frigatebird chick is island’s first for a century (plus: St Helena’s booby boomers)