St Helena Online

Tag: British overseas territories

Goats? That’s nothing: Bermuda chickens go on the run

Close-up of white chicken with red bits
Chickens are being given their pecking orders on Bermuda. Picture: Christian Bauer/

And we thought St Helena had it bad enough, with a few goats getting on the government’s butt. And cats. Okay, and a vast number of rats.

In Bermuda, an entirely different species has gone wildly out of control, and officials are laying eggs about it.

The shadowy London Reader – who alerts the St Helena media to goings-on in the British overseas territories – has followed up this website’s story about stray goats with a tip-off about feral chickens. Yes, chickens.

Roddy Yon’s chickens: 500 is enough to start with

They’ve adopted a liberal interpretation of the term, “free range”, with a dash of free love thrown in.

Feral fowl is not unknown in Half Tree Hollow, reports islander John Turner (see comment, below), but Bermuda, which is ever so slightly smaller than St Helena, has 30,000 of the feathered fiends. They’re a bit of a nuisance.

Especially as some of them are males, and insist on crowing at sunrise. That’ll be effect of the free love.

The Bermuda Sun website notes that hens reach breeding age at five weeks, after which each on can produce eight to 15 chicks every 20 weeks.

“That means a single hen can lead to the creation of up to 198 new feral birds every year,” writes senior reporter Raymond Hainey.

It’s a long-standing problem, made worse in 1987 when Hurricane Emily smashed many of the island’s chicken coops. It was as if someone had shouted, “Scramble!”

Feral chickens simply don’t respect property boundaries, says a government statement.

They’re playing havoc on the golf courses, apparently.

Public works minister Michael Weeks says: “The problem of feral chickens may seem trivial to some. However, to the many residents who are affected, they are a very real nuisance.

“Concerns range from crowing roosters causing sleepless nights and the spreading of trash, to significant economic crop and garden damage, attacks on park users and hotel guests, destruction of threatened habitats in our nature reserves, as well as salmonella and bird flu.”

It’s so serious that several government ministries have joined forces to try to wipe out the birds, having established that harnessing them for meat or eggs, or to turn their feathers into plastics, would cost too much to be worthwhile.  Half of them don’t even lay eggs: they’re male.

St Helena Government is considering putting up the fine for letting goats stray, from 25p to £250. That’s nothing: Bermudians who let their captive birds roam free face a potential fine of nearly $3,000.

Islanders are advised to report any chicken infestations – and presumably, watch where they tread.


Actually we have quite a lot of feral chickens here. I hear several cocks crowing each morning and there is nobody near us that keeps chickens. You also see them roaming in Casons and elsewhere, some distance from any houses. And that’s just at our end of the island.  There are a few apparently-feral broods in Half Tree Hollow too.

I don’t know if anyone has done a census on wild poultry.

Maybe they don’t actually eat wirebirds, but they must be competition for food.  Maybe we need a Dogs & Cats & Chickens Ordinance?

– John Turner, St Helena
Random Thoughts From Offshore – blog

Stray goat fine set to be a thousand times bigger
Roddy brings an end to egg imports (with 525 little helpers)

Bermuda’s feral chickens – minister’s speech
(Main picture by Christian Bauer under Creative Commons licence)

Bidders try to save jetty plan – after report it would be scrapped

Artist impression of the proposed breakwater
A breakwater would improve cargo handling

The leading bidders for the job of building a breakwater at Jamestown are trying to bring down the cost of the project – only days after UK cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell suggested it was being dropped.

The contract cannot be awarded to the joint preferred bidders, Enco and Marine Lagan, because St Helena Government cannot meet the tender price.

Executive councillors were called to The Castle in Jamestown at short notice in April to be told the project was in jeopardy, and new funding was being sought.

But on 20 May 2012, Mr Mitchell told a meeting in Swindon, UK, that the project was on the point of being dropped.

The Secretary of State for International Development said a permanent landing stage was being considered at Rupert’s Bay instead – big enough for some vessels to come alongside.

The ship chartered by the airport construction company Basil Read is due to be the first one ever to dock at St Helena, using a temporary jetty in Rupert’s Bay.

The last section of concrete for the temporary jetty was successfully poured into place on Friday, 25 May.

The latest airport newsletter says: “After the unfortunate incident in April where the sea conditions caused some of the concrete to be washed away, Basil Read adapted their method and poured the concrete jetty wall in four stages.

“All that remains is the addition of the fendering, planned for June.”

Three tenders for the Jamestown breakwater contract were received in January 2012.

Enco and Lagan were chosen over CAN S.A. from France and joint bidders WBHO and Sea and Shore, from South Africa.

A St Helena Government (SHG) statement says: “The tender price exceeds the funding currently available, so a contract cannot yet be awarded.

“SHG is considering a wide range of options for addressing this situation and Enco/Marine Lagan is investigating the possibility of price reduction. This process will take some time.”

The scheme involves building a breakwater extending 140 metres from the shore, with geometric “tetrapods”, similar to those at Tristan da Cunha, to deflect waves.

A breakwater and short jetty at Jamestown would create a sheltered landing basin, making it safer for people to step on and off small boats – and probably avoid repeats of the incident in which the Arcadia cruise ship captain refused to allow passengers ashore in “millpond” conditions.

A boat moored alongside the landing steps at Jamestown wharf, viewed from above
St Helena can lose £10,000 in a day if cruise passengers are unable to come ashore at the landing steps

The ship’s owner, P&O Cruises, has so far ignored all requests to acknowledge the loss suffered by islanders.

A breakwater would also make it easier to lift cargo on and off lighters – a tricky operation in a rolling sea at present. Fishermen would also be able to land fish more easily.

The latest statement makes no reference to Mr Mitchell’s doubts about the scheme. St Helena Online has asked the government press office to comment.

Jamestown jetty plan looks dead in the water
Funding shortfall delays safer landing stage

Jamestown wharf improvements: environmental impact assessment

How photo-blogger told America about island oil disaster

MS Oliva goes aground. Click the pic for more images, courtesy of

Photographer Andrew Evans arrived on the world’s most remote inhabited island just days after the bulk carrier MS Oliva was shipwrecked, creating an environmental disaster.

The ship releasing an oil slick that was to kill hundreds of endangered rockhopper penguins – and for a few days, it went unreported in the world’s media.

Evans had travelled to Tristan da Cunha in his role as National Geographic’s ‘digital nomad’, intending to capture the islanders’ way of life. Instead, he found himself witnesses the islanders’ response to a calamity.

Now National Geographic has released a video of him talking about how he broke the story of the MS Oliva.

“It was devasting,” he says. “Nobody in the world knew about this. This was an island that was completely disconnected. It’s off the grid.

“The first thing I did was take as many pictures as I could. I created a YouTube video and published it immediately from the ship. I put it out on Twitter [an internet messaging website] and it got picked up by the blogosphere.

“National Geographic got it out there in the real press, and it went to the New York Times.”

The lesson, says Evans, is that anyone with a camera and a web connection has the power to share news with the world.

In fact, Tristan is not as disconnected as he suggests. The story was also being relayed beyond the island on Tristan’s own website, which is published from the UK.

And unlike Evans, a Belgian witness had video footage of the crew actually being rescued by personnel from a passing cruise ship. However, Kanaal van KristineHannon’s shots did not appear on YouTube for another 11 days.

And efforts were being made to get the story in the UK media – but the oil spill happened in the same week as the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. The BBC was told about the story several times, but took days to get round to covering it.

The Today programme ran a live interview on the crisis on 22 March 2011 – the day Evans arrived on Tristan (and released a video in which he made no mention of the disaster).

Tristan penguin rescuers triumph – maybe

National Geographic Live: Andrew Evans on reporting the Tristan oil spill
BBC Today programme report – 22 March 2011
Andrew Evans arrives on Tristan da Cunha – 22 March 2012
Nightingale Oil Spill – Andrew Evans’s original video,  24 March 2012
YouTube: MS Oliva runs aground – Kristine Hannon crew rescue footage, 27 March 2012

Rat claims discounted as pest control staff are laid off

close up of a rat
Rats are a threat to health – and to St Helena’s wirebird population

Claims that rats are on the increase across the island have been discounted by St Helena Government (SHG) – just as the number of pest controllers is being halved.

Five of the 11 staff who lay bait are to lose their jobs.

Councillors have confirmed receiving complaints, but a statement from The Castle says: “There is no indication at present that rat numbers are increasing. The number of requests for rodent control has not risen significantly.”

It also says that the number of rodent bodies being found went down by a fifth in 2011.

TREADING CAREFULLY:John Turner finds rats on the doorstep

But in Blue Hill, John Turner tells a different story.

“We are experiencing a significant growth in the number of rats killed by our cats,” he says.

“We used to get about one body per week. Now it’s six in a week.

“We currently have half a dozen cats and they’re all pretty efficient rat killers. We find the evidence on the doorstep.”

The government statement confirms that baiting has been cut back in recent years, because of shrinking budgets and the rising cost of rodenticides. It says:

“The section’s rodent control programme is  forever evolving from what used to be a proactive approach to more reactive approach.

“There are presently 11  pest control operators, including two  supervisors, who regularly bait different residential areas around the island.

“Baiting is mainly carried out around farms , dwellings,  and along roadsides.  Control within dwellings, sheds and garages is done by request.

“Rodent  control on private land such as coffee plantations is also done by request.”

Bait stations have been set up around the island where rodents forage or feed. Staff check them “as often as possible”, but that depends on weather, the number of requests for help, and the distance operators have to travel.

Roads linking with private homes are included in the baiting programme.

But where long stretches of roads and pasture land might have been baited routinely in the past, now it is done when problems arise.

Rumours of a shortage of bait are denied: “The directorate  always has poisons on the shelf as back-up; therefore there is enough available for use when we are waiting for our next consignment.”

St Helena law says householders and landowners “shall take such steps as may from time to time be necessary and reasonably practicable for the destruction of rodents.”

Infestations must be reported – and control staff have the right to enter land to destroy rats.

But the kind of poison now used by the health department is too powerful to be used by the public.

Rats became resistant to Warfarin, which was safer for other species but required several “takes” before the animal would die.

Now pest control staff use more toxic rodenticides called Difenacoum or Bromadiolone, which need only a single feed to kill.

Rats have been completely wiped out on some remote islands with vulnerable wildlife, but SHG says it is “highly unlikely that complete eradication is possible”.

Instead, the aim is “to reduce rodent control populations to a tolerable level”.

John Turner is unconvinced that the health department can cope with the problem by working more efficiently once staffing has been cut.

“The island is basing its future on high-end tourists coming here to see our environment,” he says, “but I can’t imagine they want to see this particular aspect of our ecosystem.”

Displaced islanders written off as “a few Man Fridays”

Newly-released secret papers show how officials conspired to remove the people of the Chagos Islands, one of Britain’s overseas territories.

The UK government was negotiating a deal that would allow the United States to use the islands as a military base – but the resident Chagossians were forcibly deported. Some left the island on trips and then found they could not return.

According to The Guardian, Foreign Office officials were told to describe the islanders as “contract labourers” to make it appear they had no right to be there. “The merit of this line,” it noted, “is that it does not give away the existence of the Ilois [the indigenous islanders] but is at the same time strictly factual.”

About 1,500 islanders were deported, mainly to Mauritius and Seychelles, where some died in poverty and despair.

A fellow mandarin, Sir Dennis Greenhill, is reported to have said: “Unfortunately, along with the birds go some few Tarzans and Man Fridays whose origins are obscure and who are hopefully being wished on to Mauritius.”

LINKS: Diego Garcia archives shed light on fate of deported Chagos islanders
UK Chagos Support Association

No pressure on island cricketers… but Zambia wants to win

St Helena's national cricket team, in green and yellow strip, chat with Governor Capes before departing the island on 10 April
Governor Mark Capes chatted with St Helena's cricketers before they left on 10 April (picture courtesy of Nick Stevens)

St Helena’s national cricket team will be facing an opponent under pressure in its first-ever venture into an overseas tournament.

Zambia Cricket Union logo - a ball, a flag, grass The head of the Zambian Cricket Union says his own team “must” win the championship in South Africa if it is to get back into a higher division, reports The Times of Zambia.

St Helena is due to compete against ten other countries in the 2012 Pepsi International Cricket Council (ICC) Africa World Cricket league T20 Division Three tournament.

That’s if they all turn up. The newspaper says the Zambia national body “was still scouting for the US$ 5,000 participation fee for the championship and was confident the money will be found before the team leaves next week.”

Unlike the St Helena squad – which has organised a host of challenges to raise money from the community – ZCU president Reuben Chama has appealed to corporate sponsors to put up the fee.

He tells The Times: “We are confident because we have picked a strong team consisting of best players capable of handling this assignment. It is a must that we perform well at this tournament to get back our Division Two rating.”

Team photo of St Helena crickets, in yellow and green kitFrom Facebook:

Q: Is this the team?

Nick Stevens: no thats the cheer leaders the team flying out next week once they finish the first bit of the runway

St Helena cricketers set sail
Camp gives workers a home draw

ZCU picks 14 for Pepsi tourney – The Times of Zambia

Hotel owner is censured for chamber resignation call

Hazel Wilmot has been formally rebuked for publicly demanding the resignations of the leaders of the island’s chamber of commerce, over the closure of the St Helena Independent.

A statement from the chamber – sent to this website by Ms Wilmot – says the owner of The Consulate Hotel in Jamestown has been given a “public censure”.

It says she treated the chamber council with contempt by going public without first discussing her concerns with fellow members.

She wrote an open letter about the chamber leaders’ involvement in the launch of the state-funded Sentinel newspaper, which prompted the closure of the privately-owned publication on 30 March 2012.

The government’s involvement in the affair led to a report in a UK national newspaper, The Independent.

Ms Wilmot says the chamber’s ruling council – of which she is a member – has ignored her concerns that the actions of the president and vice president, Stuart Moors and John Styles, have undermined confidence among potential investors in St Helena.

She has also sent this website copies of emails – some with the senders’ details removed – which she says are from would-be investors who have lost confidence in St Helena Government because it funded The Sentinel and allowed it to compete with a privately-owned company for advertising. It also switched its own advertising to the new newspaper, which launched on 29 March 2012.

The chamber council’s statement, issued nearly a week after a special meeting about the affair, says:

“Ms Wilmot expanded on the detail of the items in the list of accusations. The council discussed all of the issues but, as a whole, recognising that the Chamber is a voluntary body, felt unanimously that there was no case to answer.

The council also determined that the way that Ms Wilmot went about the raising of the issues was unacceptable. By not first raising any concern with the president or vice president, or indeed with the council, she has treated her fellow council members with contempt.

“She has publicly besmirched the names of two individuals, brought the chamber itself into disrepute, and openly impugned the integrity of the chamber council members.

“The council resisted more severe actions and were content to deliver a public censure to Ms Wilmot for her ill-advised action.”

In fact, the open letter was specifically aimed at Mr Moors and Mr Styles, and made no references to the integrity of other members of the chamber council.

The letter also said the leaders’ actions had:

  • sown division among chamber members
  • brought the St Helena Chamber of Commerce into disrepute, by [permitting] legislation to be formed that endangers the principal of free enterprise on St Helena, whilst in the positions you hold.

Ms Wilmot also accused the president and vice president of failing to tell members about the way in which The Sentinel’s publisher – the St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation – was being set up.

However, it emerged at the censure meeting that members had been informed, but Ms Wilmot was off the island at the time and the discussion was excluded from the minutes.

The agenda for the chamber AGM includes the election of officers, and representation on outside organisations. The chamber is a member of the “community-owned” new media organisation, and Mr Styles and Mr Moors are both directors.

Mr Styles proposed the setting up of the corporation after being asked for his advice by St Helena Government.

SEE ALSO the Media section of this website for a full list of stories and statements

St Helena Chamber of Commerce
The Sentinel
St Helena Independent

Funding shortfall delays safer landing stage

Children play at the landing steps as a wave breaks`
Cruise captains fear passengers will get a soaking at the current landing steps in Jamestown

Improvements to the wharf at Jamestown are on hold – because there’s not enough money to pay for them.

Councillors were called to The Castle at short notice to be told about the threat to the project to provide cruise passengers with a safe place to come ashore.

A “preferred bidder” has been chosen for the project, but it could take months to raise extra finance to meet the price quoted by the unnamed company.

A boat moored alongside the landing steps at Jamestown wharf, viewed from above
St Helena can lose £10,000 in a day if cruise passengers are unable to come ashore at the landing steps

Without it, the island is expected to continue losing thousands of pounds a year because cruise ship captains refuse to allow passengers to land in poor sea conditions.

The potential lost revenue has been estimated at more than £300,000 a year by 2023 – on the basis that the number of ships calling will increase if a sheltered landing stage is built.

Executive councillors were called in for an unscheduled meeting on Tuesday, 3 April 2012, but the bare details of a briefing from Dr Corinda Essex were not made public until eight days later.

Governor Mark Capes said: “Dr Essex explained that although a preferred bidder had been identified, there was still a gap between the bid and the funds currently available.

Artist impression of the proposed breakwater
A breakwater would improve cargo handling

“More work was needed to identify and assess all of the possible options. That process would take several months and involve further discussion with the European Commission and others.”

The scheme involves building a breakwater extending 140 metres from the shore, with geometric “tetrapods”, similar to those at Tristan da Cunha, to deflect waves.

The breakwater and short jetty would create a sheltered landing basin, making it safer for people to step on and off small boats.

It would also make it easier to lift cargo on and off lighters – a tricky operation in a rolling sea at present. Fishermen would also be able to land fish more easily.

Sea rescue craft could also be launched with less difficulty, down a slipway inside the breakwater.

Jamestown wharf improvements: environmental impact assessment

‘Eco resort’ moves a step closer in wirebird valley

Efforts to create an “eco friendly” tourist resort in St Helena have cleared another hurdle, with the signing of a new agreement that promises work and housing for islanders.

The scheme involves a luxury hotel and spa, a golf course and tourist chalets at Broad Bottom – one of the prime breeding sites of the island’s vulnerable wirebird, which is found nowhere else in the world.

The population of the bird – also known as the St Helena Plover – has now risen above the official “endangered” mark, but the St Helena National Trust has warned that its numbers could fall because of future tourism developments.

The government says the resort must be built “in an environmentally highly sensitive way with a focus on blending with the countryside and its ecology, and having a low carbon footprint.”

The St Helena Leisure Corporation Ltd (Shelco) still has to gain formal planning consent for the development. The UK-based company must then apply for an “immigrant landholding licence” before it can buy land for the resort.

The government says it is “not in any way obliged to grant development permission.”

Its statement says:

“By providing up-market tourist accommodation with ‘green’ environmentally-friendly credentials, the Shelco project could become an important component of the current work to develop St Helena’s economy.

“The agreement includes a commitment by Shelco to use its best endeavours to employ a St Helenian workforce, while providing appropriate training and housing for its employees.

“Similarly, in operating the resort Shelco has committed to endeavour to source food and consumables from St Helena.”

An agreement to progress the resort project was signed by then-governor Andrew Gurr in May 2008, after legal advice over objections to the scheme.

An updated contract was signed on 10 April 2012 to fit in with reforms to the island’s policies and laws, required by the UK government in return for funding for the airport.

They include a new land development control plan, approved by councillors on 22 March 2012. Three weeks after the decision, details have yet to be made public.

Once the Broad Bottom planning application has been submitted – along with a study on its likely impact on the environment – islanders will be given 28 days to make comments on it. The detailed scheme must fit in with special policies laid down for building at Broad Bottom.

It will then be considered by the planning board in a public session. Consent will only be given with a “comprehensive” set of strict conditions.

The process is closely modelled on the long-established system in the UK.

Shelco has been pressing for the chance to invest in St Helena for more than a decade, since it first offered to build an airport for the island. The contract for that project eventually went to South African firm Basil Read, which started construction work in January.

A copy of the new memorandum of agreement is to be placed on the SHG website.

New planning rules protect island – but what are they?


Wirebird: endangered species consultation (scroll down for St Helena National Trust view)
St Helena Government

Do the maths, says economist: tourists equal millions (comments added)

The secret formula for St Helena’s future prosperity has been worked out by the island’s economist. And here it is:

30,000 x £150 x 7 = £31.5 million

Owen James says the prospect of air travel from 2015 offers scope to improve living standards “on a scale unimaginable without an airport.”

But he adds: “Until I did some simple maths, even I didn’t realise how achievable huge improvements could be.”

In his Economy Watch report, he says the island needs “two or three hotels” to provide enough beds to be able fly in a plane load of tourists every day.

The maths isn’t hard: 30,000 tourists a year, who spend £150 per day, for 7 days each = £31.5 million.

One or two large hotels would be able to accommodate 30,000 tourists annually, while £150 per day is very low spend for a high value location and not many people are going to come to St Helena for much less than a week.

So my maths is very conservative and even so it would more than double or treble on-island spending, meaning more money flowing through local businesses and into the pockets of local people.

The island needs to start making it happen, there isn’t much time, so let’s focus on what’s important and do it.”

Mr James issued his report shortly after executive councillors approved the island’s economic blueprints for the years ahead.

The Sustainable Development Plan outlines what St Helena wants to achieve over the next ten years: better jobs, wages, opportunities and public services. It also sets out challenging targets for education and health.  

The second document, the Sustainable Economic Development Plan, sets out a strategy for kick-starting an enterprise culture on an island that has lived on UK aid for decades.

It is launched under the slogan: “Small footprint, huge step forward.”


Let’s hope the author is right. Does anyone have any reliable statistics as to the amount of employment that 500+ tourists a week can be expected to bring? 

I aasume the £150 a day includes the cost of hotel rooms. Presumably the hotels will be overseas owned, although they will generate some local employment, but it would be surprising if they did not bring in a fair number of short-term overseas staff in order to maintain international standards of service.

Most of the food and alcohol consumed by the tourists will have to be imported, some of it directly I imagine by air to provide the fresh food that modern tourists expect, and therefore with a minimum of benefit to any St Helena based business. 

I don’t doubt that some will do very well out of all this, and the island will certainly get a boost from all the initial capital investment involved in building hotels and airport, but I suspect that the major profits will go to airline and hotel companies based outside St Helena, and that like the current expatriates’ salaries, much of that £31.5 million will not be spent in St Helena.  I do expect, though, that property prices will increase, that more members of the diaspora will be encouraged to return home and buy or build a house for their retirement, and that St Helena may become an attractive retreat  from the African continent for those with executive jets.

John Tyrrell

I’m thinking that if we have a “huge step” concentrated into a “small footprint” then that means somebody will be under a lot of pressure (like the elephant in stilettos from my school physics exam).  🙂

John Turner, St Helena

Economy Watch April 2012
Sustainable Development Plan (the island’s top-level planning document)
Sustainable Economic Development Plan (the strategy for boosting the private sector)

Don’t blow our golden chance, says economist
Relying on tourism poses economic risk, warn territories
St Helena Government may sell of Solomon’s shares