A Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust local team on the island of Montserrat reported widespread devastation following volcanic activity since last May (2009). Over 1000 square meters of the Centre Hills forest were badly impacted and devastation of the area’s vegetation has been ongoing. Problems such as “tumbling boulders, vast mudflows, and thick, superheated ash have left behind swathes of destruction, with seedlings and saplings destroyed, and larger shrubs and trees left leafless and broken.” The results have been devastation for many species of wildlife, for example, the Montserrat oriole, the island’s national bird. With a breeding season that runs from April to September, the orioles’ main nesting sites are in succulent Heliconia plants, which have been devastated due to the heat and weight of ash.
Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust was initially called in by Montserrat’s government in 1997 after a major eruption in the Soufrière Hills in the south destroyed 60% of the hill forest habitat of the Montserrat oriole, a critically threatened, single-island, endemic species, that is, only found in Montserrat. Durrell has been heavily involved in trying to reverse the decline not only in orioles but also in other endangered species such as the “mountain chicken,” Montserrat’s giant frog.
Last year, four of eighteen mountain chicken areas under study in the area were badly damaged in the eruption, including one at Killiecrankie which was completely destroyed. Durrell’s team found numbers of mountain chickens which appeared to be blinded, either by ash or by acid rain that fell, and such frogs will now almost certainly become prey to rats and other feral animals.
Durrell continues to look after small populations of Montserrat orioles and mountain chickens that have been successfully bred in captivity as a precautionary measure. [Also see previous posts Hope for Montserrat and Dominica’s Mountain Chicken Frogs and Montserrat’s Mountain Chicken Frogs airlifted in bid to save them from extinction.]
See full article and photo of Montserrat oriole (by James Morgan) at http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/news-montserrat.html#cr
Photo of man holding a mountain chicken (by Gerardo García/Durrell) from http://www.ircf.org/2009/08/alien-scene-of-tadpoles-feast/