Initial deadline for comments: 31 January 2012 [note that this has been moved back by about two months].
St Helena Plover Charadrius sanctaehelenae is endemic to St Helena (UK), where it inhabits pastureland and semi-desert habitats (McCulloch 1992, 1999, 2009). It is currently listed as Critically Endangered under criterion C2a(ii). This categorisation has been precautionarily maintained since the species was last thought to number fewer than 250 mature individuals and be in continuing decline, with at least 90% of all mature individuals in one sub-population.
This species’s population exceeded 250 mature individuals in 2007 (F. Burns in litt. 2008), and has increased overall since then, with the most recent survey in early 2011 putting the population at 350 mature individuals (E. Duff in litt. 2011). Surveys in recent years suggest that the population of mature individuals has been undergoing relatively minor fluctuations, with totals of 397 in 2010, 322 in 2009 (E. Duff in litt. 2010) and 373 in 2008 (F. Burns in litt. 2008), although such differences may be at least partly explained by annual variation in surveyor experience and other minor variations inherent in replicated surveys. The species has benefitted in recent years from on-going conservation efforts (J. Roberts in litt. 2010), including habitat restoration and control measures against introduced predators.
The results of surveys conducted in 2007 and since indicate that the species may not have met the thresholds for Critically Endangered or Endangered under any of the IUCN criteria for at least five years, and consequently may be eligible for downlisting. It is proposed that the species be downlisted to Vulnerable under criterion D1 on the basis that the population is estimated to number fewer than 1,000 mature individuals, with no evidence of a continuing decline.
It is recognised, however, that the species’s recovery is potentially affected by the on-going threats of changes in land management, the effects of introduced species, disturbance and residential development. The reinstated plans to develop an airport on St Helena and the resulting tourist developments could cause a future decline in the population, in which case the species would be eligible for uplisting. However, while potentially inappropriate tourist developments are a cause for concern, it is not expected that existing plans for the airport itself will seriously impact the population, and mitigation measures have been recommended (N. McCulloch in litt. 2007, 2010).
Comments are invited on the proposal to downlist the species to Vulnerable, and further information would be welcomed.
McCulloch, N. (1992) The status and ecology of the St Helena Wirebird. Thetford, U.K.: British Trust for Ornithology (Research Report 97).
McCulloch, N. (1999) St Helena wirebird: the forgotten plover. Bull. Afr. Bird Club 6: 95-99.
McCulloch, N. (2009) Recent decline of the St Helena Wirebird Charadrius sanctaehelenae. Bird Conserv. Int. 19: 33-48.