Snails slowly make comeback
Bermuda is to find safe homes for two endangered native species of snails bred in captivity in Britain.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources wants to put the snails on islands without major predators.
A spokeswoman said: “In 2004, and again in 2015, two species of endemic land snails were sent to the Zoological Society of London.
“The captive breeding efforts at the Zoological Society of London has produced so many snails — thousands — that they gave some to the Chester Zoo.
“Staff at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are now identifying locations, all near-shore islands without major predators, to begin reintroducing those captive-bred land snails.”
The number of Poecilozonites circumfirmatus snails were believed to be in rapid decline when some were sent to the Zoological Society of London.
Poecilozonites bermudensis was thought to be extinct until the species was rediscovered in a Hamilton alley in 2014.
The department has been sending some of the most threatened endemic species — found only in Bermuda — overseas for several years as part of the lifeboat programme.
The spokeswoman said the move was designed to “safeguard those species because they are either extinct in the wild or are experiencing dramatic declines in the wild”.
She added: “It's an insurance plan of sorts.
“If a species completely disappears from Bermuda, at least there will be a few overseas that could be brought back to the island when conditions are more favourable for them.
“Chester Zoo has become a major partner by virtue of the fact that they are now caring for four of Bermuda's endemics. Other organisations have one or two.”
The spokeswoman said the Governor Laffan's fern, which was extinct in the wild, was sent to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha in 2002.
She added that “hundreds of young ferns have subsequently been returned to Bermuda and are being reintroduced into the wild”.
Bermuda killifish were sent to the Vienna Zoological Gardens in 2008 and Chester Zoo received some in 2016.
The Bermuda Biodiversity Project said there are two types of killifish in Bermuda that live in nine small, isolated ponds across the island.
The spokeswoman added that Chester Zoo also took on Bermuda skinks in 2013, which began breeding last year.
She said: “Plans are currently being made to send a shipment of Bermuda crickets to the Chester Zoo so that they can be bred as a food source because we know that young skinks love to eat crickets.”
The spokeswoman added that all of the plants and animals involved in the programme “have been very well cared for and all have successfully reproduced in captivity”.
She said: “Some of our partner organisations have even created how-to guides which contain information that can be used to help inform local captive breeding efforts.”