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The isolation and steep forest terrain of French Polynesia’s high volcanic islands, which include Tahiti and Moorea, has created hotspots of endemic invertebrates, birds and plants. The introduction of the Florida rosy wolf snail in the mid 1970s, as a bio-control agent against the giant African land snail, has had a disastrous impact on the endemic snail fauna across the Pacific region.
Although 12 species have been saved by the Partula breeding programme, over 50 Partula species have become extinct across the Islands and unfortunately this pattern of extinction continues to be repeated on many other island groups.
From the mid-1980s a Partula snail conservation programme’s developed through three integrated phases:
Partula affinis, TahitiPartula clara, Tahiti
Samoana ganymedes, Marquesa islands
Partula mirabilis, MooreaPartula suturalis strigosa, Moorea
Partula taeniata simulans, MooreaPartula dentifera, Raiatea
Partula varia, Huahine
We were involved in the initial crisis rescue phase which included fieldwork expeditions. These were predominately aimed at rescuing populations of threatened Partula species before the predator swept through their range valleys. This crisis necessitated the establishment of an international breeding programme whereby 25 Partula taxa were taken into management facilities in North America and Europe. This programme continues today to maintain 22 Partulid species in closely managed breeding groups.
The second phase required a series of more intensive surveys on the principal range of islands to determine the extent of predator invasion and its impact on the native mollusc fauna. This work, carried out in close collaboration with a wide range of partners in the local community, confirmed that 15 of the rescue-collected Partula species are now extinct in the wild. This phase also saw the development, testing and construction of predator exclusion Partula reserves (20 x 20 m²) in the natural range of the specie. A number of snails bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens were part of this project. This reserve strategy remains the most practical measure to address the predator threat to surviving endemic species.
The third and most significant phase addresses the future conservation requirements of the region through the development and implementation of a formal regional conservation management strategy. BCSF is a member of the Partula breeding programme and keeps the following species of Partulid which can be seen in a purpose-built, environmentally controlled room in the forest area of Bugworld at Bristol Zoo Gardens.