St Helena island: new airport threatens scores of rare animals

This November 2014 video is called The [St Helena] GIANT EARWIG is now EXTINCT

From London daily The Independent:

The giant earwig that could bring a country to a standstill

By Marie Woolf, Political Editor

Published: 27 November 2005

The giant earwig is among the most elusive creatures on the planet – and is believed by many to be extinct.

But its survival is at the centre of a transatlantic planning row, which could prevent an airport from being built on the island where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his final years in exile.

Some of the world’s rarest species, including birds, spiders and centipedes, are under threat from a new £80m airport planned for the island of St Helena.
St Helena island in the south Atlantic ocean
Biologists and environmentalists are warning that some of the world’s last undiscovered creatures may be lost to science for ever if their habitat is covered in tarmac by the British government.

The South Atlantic island is home to spiders so rare they have not even been named, beetles that were unknown to man until two years ago and birds found only in the remote island’s habitat.

Conservationists who compare its importance to that of the Galapagos Islands warn that the massive construction project could wipe out some of these rare creatures and ensure that as yet undiscovered insects are never found by man.

“This looks like the worst sort of unsustainable development,” said Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, who has questioned ministers in the House of Commons about the scheme.

“The Government should be considering how to preserve the biodiversity of the island instead of rushing headlong with an airport.”

The arid site earmarked for the airstrip and terminal is the breeding ground of the indigenous wire bird – of which only about 400 exist in the wild – as well as endangered lurking wolf spiders and large black darkling beetles.

The 78mm-long giant earwig also made its home in Prosperous Bay Plain.

A live giant earwig has not been sighted since the late 1960s, but while some conservationists fear it is extinct, others hope a few still exist and are planning expeditions to locate them.

The environmental historian Richard Grove of the University of Sussex is among those who believe it may still be found.

But he says its chances will be severely reduced by the new airport.

“This is the equivalent of the Galapagos and in some ways it is more important as it has the potential for more undiscovered species,” he said.

“Island species like the giant earwig are often declared to be extinct because a lot of naturalists are not there. Then they are found later.”

The Foreign Office and St Helena government have commissioned Philip and Myrtle Ashmole, experts on the island’s insect life, to carry out a zoological survey of the area.

They found it contained around 20 species not known anywhere else on the globe.

“Prosperous Bay Plain has at least 20 species of invertebrates endemic to the plain, not just St Helena,” Dr Ashmole said.

“During our survey we found a couple of wolf spiders that are almost certainly new to science.”

Darkling Ground Beetles are members of the family Tenebrionidae. Darkling beetles are slow-moving, small to medium-sized insects, 1/16-1 3/8″ (2-35 mm) long: here.

5 thoughts on “St Helena island: new airport threatens scores of rare animals

  1. Pingback: Save St Helena’s invertebrate animals | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: British government neglects wildlife in its colonies | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Birds and plants of St Helena | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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