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Wildlife watchtower opened

A tower on Cooper’s Island which had been used to monitor space shuttles will now be used to watch wildlife.

With longtails circling overhead, Environment and Planning Minister Sylvan Richards yesterday formally opened a wildlife watchtower during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in St David’s.

The watch tower, on the approximate site of Fort Pembroke, had served as the base of a radar tower when the Cooper’s Island NASA Tracking Station was in operation.

“Today the newly refurbished tower no longer serves to guard against enemy ships or to track space craft, but to allow the public to experience up close the annual migration of the humpback whale, the Bermuda petrel or cahow and the longtail,” said Mr Richards.

“I think we can all agree that even without the wildlife, the view is breathtaking.”

The Cooper’s Island property was given back to the Bermuda Government in 2008, and since 2010 HSBC Bermuda, under the direction of the Department of Conservation Services, have been restoring the area.

While several buildings in the area were demolished, the base of the radar tower was found to be hollow with maintenance access to the upper deck, which was surrounded by railings and boasted a view of Nonsuch Island and Castle Island Nature Reserves.

In renovating the tower, a spiral staircase was installed leading to the roof and a series of signs highlighting the area’s wildlife were placed inside the structure.

Mr Richards said the Cooper’s Island area was very important, in part because it has no artificial light pollution, which disturbs nocturnal birds such as the cahow.

“It also has the physical space which allows for some of the larges colonies of native birds, such as the longtails, to nest,” he said.

“We have even recently found a colony of endemic skink residing just below the tower. Additionally, the reefs are close to land at this spot, making it one of the best places to see migrating humpback whales.”

Mr Richards thanked HSBC Bermuda and its volunteers for their support in turning Cooper’s Island into a nature reserve and sponsoring the refurbishment of the tower.

HSBC CEO Richard Moseley said the project was an example of a successful collaboration between the Bermuda Government and the private sector, noting that HSBC staff have dedicated more than 2,000 volunteer hours to removing invasive plants, and installing longtail “igloos” for nesting.

HSBC CEO Richard Moseley points out the sights to Minister of Environment and Planning Sylvan Richards alongside contractor Manuel Baron of MC Baron Construction and Director of Conservation Services Andrew Pettit following the official opening of the refurbished wildlife lookout tower at Cooper's Island. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published May 17, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 17, 2013 at 12:01 am)

Wildlife watchtower opened

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