Over 50 Partula snail species have become extinct across the French Polynesia islands and unfortunately this pattern of extinction continues to be repeated on many other island groups. We are working to help protect the remaining Partula species, both in and ex-situ, as well as repatriate the species in the near future which are now only found in captivity. The focus of the project is to identify methods of how to improve land snail biodiversity in the conservation hotspot of the French Polynesia.
Partula snail species are endangered – and many extinct - due to habitat loss and the presence of the predatory snail, Euglandina roesa. The carnivorous Euglandina rosea was introduced in an attempt to control an introduced pest species Achatina fulica - the giant African land snail. However, the carnivorous species preferred to eat the much smaller Partula which drove many Partula species to extinction. A tiny handful of Partula species still survive in French Polynesia, but the majority are now only found in zoological institutions around the world as part of conservation programmes.
The French Polynesia project focuses on the removal of invasive species, habitat restoration and on-going management. We have helped fund the construction of a reserve that will be used to allow Partula snails to return to some of their former range. The reserve is secured against the predatory Euglandina rosea, so is ready for the repatriation of three Partula species from our international breeding programme. Together with partner British Zoos, our conservation experts frequently visit the French Polynesia to conduct field surveys and talk to various members of government to try and ensure the successful repatriation of Partula snails. It is hoped that we can increase awareness of the threats to endemic Polynesian biodiversity from invasive species amongst local communities and schools.
We are currently working with other zoos in the Partula consortium to help maintain the species currently held in captivity, as well as breeding key species to release back into the wild – both into the safe reserve and a few selected soft release sites. The experience of building a predator-proof reserve is part of a wider habitat restoration initiative, as well as the basis for an outreach strategy to engage local people and local schoolchildren in biodiversity conservation.
We hope to sign a three-year agreement with the French Polynesia government in the near future.
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