186-year old tortoise and gay rights

This video says about itself:

On Saturday 19 March 2016, an historic event took place in the grounds of Plantation House, St Helena Island.

Jonathan the Giant Tortoise – the oldest known living land animal on Earth and creakingly old national treasure at an estimated age of 184 years – was washed for the first time in recorded history by vet Dr Joe Hollins.

Joe explained that the reason for bathing Jonathan came after he cleaned – and transformed – the shell of one of the female tortoises at Plantation House. Joe consulted a tortoise specialist to establish the method of cleaning, which includes gentle, circular scrubbing using non-abrasive materials. Filmed and Edited: Kimberley Yon – Roberts (SHG’s Press Office).

From Wikipedia:

Jonathan (hatched c. 1832)[1][2] is a Seychelles giant tortoise (Aldabrachelys gigantea hololissa) that lives on the island of Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Jonathan was brought to the island from the Seychelles in 1882, along with three other tortoises at about 50 years of age. He was named in the 1930s by Governor Sir Spencer Davis. He continues to live in the grounds of Plantation House, the official residence of the Governor, and belongs to the government of Saint Helena….

If he really was hatched in 1832 he could now be the oldest known living reptile on earth.

In 1991, Jonathan got a female companion, called Frederica.

They mated quite often, but did not produce eggs.

Recently, Frederica was investigated. It turned out the tortoise was probably male and should be called Frederic.

Dutch NOS TV says this discovery may help LGBTQ equality on Saint Helena. Last year there was a proposal on the island for equal marriage for LGBTQ people, but it failed.

Taking about lack of equal rights, limiting ourselves to Africa: in three African countries homosexuality is punished by the death penalty. They are Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia. Especially the regimes of Sudan and Somalia have strong military ties to the ‘free world’ of the NATO governments. I doubt very much whether President Trump and Vice President Pence of the USA mind these regimes’ death penalty for LGBTQ people.

Save St Helena’s invertebrate animals

This video says about itself:

Saint Helena – named after St Helena of Constantinople, is an island of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha[2] which also includes Ascension Island and the islands of Tristan da Cunha. Saint Helena measures about 16 by 8 kilometres (10 by 5 mi) and has a population of 4,255 (2008 census).

The island has a history of over 500 years since it was first discovered as an uninhabited island by the Portuguese in 1502. Britain’s second oldest remaining colony (after Bermuda), Saint Helena is one of the most isolated islands in the world and was for several centuries of vital strategic importance to ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa. For several centuries, the British used the island as a place of exile, most notably for Napoleon Bonaparte, Dinuzulu kaCetshwayo and over 5,000 Boer prisoners.

From Wildlife Extra:

Conserving globally threatened bugs on the UK Overseas Territory of St Helena.

Bugs on the brink – Conserving St Helena’s invertebrates

June 2013. Wildlife charity, Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, has launched a 3-year ‘Bugs on the Brink’ project, on the UK Overseas Territory of St Helena. Many of St Helena’s unique invertebrates are on the brink of extinction, with some of its most iconic species, such as the Giant earwig, feared lost within living memory. Funded by the Darwin Initiative, the project will help to conserve St Helena’s globally threatened invertebrates. This is the first time that anyone has set out to create a long-term plan for conserving St Helena’s invertebrates.

400 endemic invertebrates

St Helena is one of the UK’s ‘Overseas Territories’, lying in the South Atlantic Ocean, mid-way between Africa and South America. It is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world and, for now, can only be reached by boat. The island’s flora and fauna evolved in extreme isolation, resulting in more than 400 invertebrate species found nowhere else on Earth. For this reason, St Helena has been called the ‘Galapagos of the South Atlantic’.


Unfortunately, following its discovery by sailors in 1502, St Helena suffered immense environmental destruction, caused by introduced livestock and forest clearance. Today, much of the island’s unique wildlife is threatened with extinction. Iconic invertebrates such as the Giant earwig (Labidura herculeana), Giant ground beetle (Aplothorax burchelli) and St Helena darter (a dragonfly – Sympetrum dilatatum) are believed lost within living memory. The remnants of the native flora and fauna are struggling to survive in habitat fragments, which occupy a tiny fraction of their original area. They also face a wide range of pressures from non-native plants and animals.

The ‘Bugs on the Brink’ project aims to support invertebrate conservation in the long-term, by training local staff, helping to restore native habitats, teaching school children of the vital role played by invertebrates, and raising public awareness of the special place invertebrates have in St Helena’s natural heritage. This work will help St Helena meet future challenges, such as the airport construction and associated expansion of tourism and development. It is hoped that invertebrates can play their part in supporting sustainable eco-tourism, on an island that is surely one of the jewels in the crown of UK biodiversity. The ‘Bugs on the Brink’ project will run until January 2016.

Vicky Kindemba, Buglife Conservation Delivery Manager said ‘It is so important for us to be working with local conservationists, St Helena Government and the people of St Helena (known as Saints). Only together can we forge a long-term future for its unique biodiversity.’

Reforestation on St Helena island

Commidendron rugosum gumwood flower

From Wildlife Extra:

St Helena reforestation wins conservation award

05/04/2011 02:55:41

Winner of Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies Nature Conservation Award is announced

April 2011: A forest restoration project on one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world has just won a major UK conservation award. But this is no ordinary forest and no ordinary island – for the trees are endangered and are found nowhere else in the world and the island is St Helena, an Overseas Territory of the UK.

Flying the flag for the International Year of Forests, the St Helena Millennium Forest Project will be presented with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee’s Blue Turtle Award for nature conservation in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.

The eastern half of St Helena was once covered with a huge swathe of native forest known as the Great Wood. During the 1700s most of the native trees had succumbed to the combined effects of felling for timber by settlers, browsing by goats and rooting by pigs; and by the 20th century only a few of the native gumwood trees survived. Gumwoods are found nowhere else in the world, and like other trees endemic to St Helena, are all threatened with extinction. At the initiative of the local community, the St Helena Millennium Forest project was launched with the goal of reinstating native forest on degraded wasteland. More than 250 hectares of land has been set aside for restoration and, since 2002, over 10,000 gumwood trees have been planted.

Birds and plants of St Helena

This is a video about Saint Helena island, and the wirebird.

From Wildlife Extra:

The remote island of St Helena, a dot in the vast expanse of the South Atlantic Ocean, is 1,200 miles from Africa and 1,800 miles from South America. Just ten miles by six miles and a population of around 3,000, it is home to some interesting endemic species.

The native flora has suffered over the years from the goats and donkeys that have grazed on the many endemic plants, many to the brink of extinction. Invasive weeds have also taken their toll of which the New Zealand flax is by far the worst culprit.

A small conservation team, working for the St Helena Government, is now endeavouring to grow and replant the island’s endemics. This is important work as many of the plants are not just endemic to the island but to just one cliff face of single valley, making them some of the rarest plants in the world. The St Helena ebony was thought to be extinct until 1980, when Saint George Benjamin found two plants on a remote cliff face and took cuttings so it could be re-introduced across the island.

Temperate Climate

This tropical island is full of contrasts; its memorable contrasting landscape is a result of its volcanic origins, with spectacular 1,000ft bronze-coloured cliffs, harsh desert and lush green valleys. And despite its position in the tropics, the climate is kept mild by the southeast trade winds; between 20 and 30 degrees centigrade in the summer and between 15 and 26 degrees in winter.

Much of St Helena is best explored by walking and for many it is a walker’s paradise. Whether it is a gentle stroll along country roads or up to the highest point – Diana’s Peak (2,685 ft) to view the endemic flora and fauna.

The Wirebird

The Wirebird is the national bird of St Helena, it is a small, long-legged, grey-brown plover with white under parts and a black mask extending to the sides of the neck. It is the only surviving endemic bird of St Helena.

The Wirebird prefers flat areas of short grassland with patches of bare ground. They eat mainly caterpillars, beetles and snails. They breed throughout the year, but most nesting occurs from October to March, during the dry season. They usually lay two eggs at a time.

Other endemic birds, such as the St Helena Rail, Crake, Dove, Hoopooe and Petrel were classified as extinct as far back as 1502, mostly due to introduced predators (rats, cats and humans) and the environmental changes that these brought to the island. The other birds seen on the island today have been introduced from other countries, these include: Yellow Canary; Madagascar fody; Chukar partridge; Peaceful Dove; Fairy tern; Java sparrow; Noddy terns; Madeiran storm petrel; Sooty tern; Ring-necked pheasant; red-billed tropicbird; St Helena waxbill; Common mynah bird; and the Rock dove.

In the case of seabirds like the sooty tern, I really doubt whether these were introduced by humans.

St Helena sedge, thought extinct, found again: here.

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.