Antigua and Barbuda have some 51 offshore islands, ranging from a rock jutting out of the water to an island inhabited by fallow deer brought here many years ago. Who knew that deer could survive in the West Indies? These islands are not only visually beautiful; they are vital for a healthy coastal and marine ecosystem. The red mangroves that grow on their shores are an important nursery for marine life, as are the shallow sea grass beds. Unfortunately, as coastal developments are increasing in demand, this natural heritage is under great threat. In response to the increasing demands on such resources, the
Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) was founded in 1989 by a group of concerned citizens, who felt that there was an
urgent need for a group that would educate as well as advocate for environmental matters in Antigua & Barbuda. The
group is a national, voluntary, non-profit, non-governmental organization that implements projects, holds field trips and
other tours, and provides educational resources for the community, along with other diverse activities.
The organization’s vision of ‘a society informed and empowered to sustainably use and manage its natural
resources’ is achieved through a number of working projects. The Offshore Islands Conservation Programme (OICP) is the
organization’s oldest project, which began in 1995 with the re-discovery of the endemic Antiguan Racer snake. Despite
being deemed extinct, it was discovered that the population had dwindled to just 50 specimens on Great Bird, an island in
the North Sound. The EAG has successfully protected this species through a rat eradication programme, as rats were the
number one predator after mongoose, which had not yet invaded the offshore island. As suggested by the name, the
project has since expanded to encompass protection of the entire ecosystem. Indeed, on May 7th, 2010, the EAG was
awarded a major grant by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Programme, to carry out more extensive
bird work on the offshore islands. A very successful outreach programme with schools was designed through the project. ‘Floating Classrooms’ are offered to students from around the country. The field trip lasts from 9.00am to 12.00pm, taking students and teachers on a boat tour through the critical mangrove and coral reef areas, pausing for closer examination along the way. They go ashore at Great Bird Island, where the class walks through the dry scrubland in search of the rare Antigua Racer snake, and along the ridge where they can spot nesting seabirds, such as the Red-Billed Tropic Bird, the endangered
Brown Pelican, and the endemic West Indian Whistling Duck. Following the walk, there are various activities for the
children to complete. The Floating Classroom programme is a great way to get students out to places they may not have been to before or go to again. This learning experience away from the classroom provides a stimulating environment that spikes interests and inspires a shared appreciation for the natural surroundings. A great educational milestone was achieved in early 2010 with the publication of a comprehensive field guide, ‘The Wild Plants of Antigua and Barbuda’. The book contains over
1,000 photographs of 500 species of plants that are native and naturalized to the country. Not cutting
any corners, every image was taken by one of the four authors within the last three years. The accompanying text
includes both a basic and a technical description, making this resource accessible to all ages and levels. A workshop was
held at the Antigua State College in June, 2010, and students are looking forward to more next year. Public awareness took a unique form in 2010, with the EAG partnering with Junior Chamber International (JCI) to deliver a Jaycees Caribbean Queen Show with the theme, ‘A Tropical Fantasy: Embracing the Effects of Climate Change’. By selecting this topic, the beauty pageant sent out a strong message– that the condition of the environment is everybody’s business, not just those who work or study it! To drive this message home, the EAG took the contestants on a hike just two days before the show. The location of choice was Carpenter’s Rock, an exquisite natural formation on the south coast of Antigua. The delegates enjoyed a beautiful backdrop while being interviewed on what their country was doing to combat climate change. After more than 20 years in existence, the EAG remains a strong community-based organization. With all of the achievements, the battle of environmental advocacy is ongoing. Why not support the EAG? Donate today to help fulfill their mission! Learn more by emailing eag@candw.ag or leave a message in the shoutbox on www.eagantigua.org.

Categories: Antigua

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