Click picture for larger view. Species under threat. Photograph: Giulio Frigieri/Graphic
Environmental groups criticise lack of funding and targets for protecting endangered species in UK’s 14 overseas territories
Many species in some of the most remote vestiges of Britain’s overseas territories face extinction unless a government plan to protect them sets out clearly defined preservation targets, according to wildlife experts.
A newly unveiled government white paper pledges to “cherish the environment” in its 14 overseas territories, which include the British Virgin Islands, the archipelago of Tristan da Cunha, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the Falkland Islands.
However, the RSPB – which claims that 85% of the UK’s threatened species, including 33 bird species are in the overseas territories – is warning that the plans feature “a notable absence of solid targets and commitments” and provide no new funding.
It claims that, unless the government takes a “once in a decade opportunity” to protect its overseas territories, there will be a potentially disastrous loss of wildlife which will have global consequences. “The UK has to look after its own back yard,” said Jonathan Hall, UK overseas territories officer with the RSPB. “Many of these threatened species are unique to these islands.”
Environmental groups are urging the government to heed the lessons from a previous white paper on the UK’s overseas territories, produced in 1999, which highlighted the environmental problems facing the islands but failed to enhance their protection, with the result that at least one species, a rare type of olive tree found in St Helena – the UK’s second oldest territory and the most isolated inhabited island in the world – became extinct.