A small island once infested by rats — no, not Manhattan — has been revived into a wildlife refuge for dozens of threatened species.
Redonda, an uninhabited, volcanic island that is part of Antigua and Barbuda, was once mined for its abundance of bird poop and later overcome by feral goats and thousands of black rats.
After years of restoration efforts, the tiny Caribbean island is now a wildlife refuge for thousands of threatened species.
“The island was in such a dreadful state that everyone thought it was going to need an awfully long time to recover,” Jenny Daltry, director for Re:wild and Fauna & Flora International, told the environmental news outlet Mongabay. “But we were seeing changes really fast.”
Conservationists began tackling the restoration of Redonda in 2016, working to round up about 60 ravenous goats and eradicate 6,000 vicious black rats.
Poisonous rat traps were put down. When workers returned to the island to check on them, other rats had already started feasting on the remains, National Geographic reported earlier on in the efforts. And the goats were so smart that they evaded all snares. They had to be put in plastic bags up to their necks and blindfolded with a hood made of old yoga pants to keep calm, their horns protected with foam pool noodles, for the 20-minute flight back to Antigua.
Since then, native vegetation, birds and lizards have made a rapid resurgence, making the once-barren moonscape green again, according to local reports.
In early September, the government of Antigua and Barbuda announced it had established the Redonda Ecosystem Reserve, making it one of the Caribbean’s largest protected areas.
The island was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. Mining of bird guano for fertilizer began in the 19th century but ceased once World War I broke out, allowing the rat and goat populations to run rampant.