Montserrat Youth to Benefit from New Darwin Environment Grant

Male mountain chicken calling during breading season
Male mountain chicken calling during breeding season (MCP Photo)
Luke Jones receiving frogs at the beginning of the mountain chicken release.
Some of the international partners receiving frogs at the beginning of the mountain chicken release.

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Department of Environment (DoE), Montserrat National Trust (MNT) and the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs & Sport are partnering to execute a new Darwin Plus Initiative grant targeted at developing Montserrat’s future capacity to create, manage and lead wildlife conservation initiatives.
The collaboration will focus on engagement and development of the island’s youth through mentoring, outreach and training opportunities in the environmental sector and will engage with education officials to lobby for inclusion of topics related to the island’s rich biodiversity into the national curriculum.
The funding will see the creation of two full-time roles working with the project partners over the course of the grant. The successful candidates will be trained in the multidisciplinary skills necessary to implement and manage wildlife conservation initiatives on-island. The Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme will be used as a nucleus for in-depth scientific training provided by global leading conservation organisation, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

Frogs bathing in heated ponds (MCP Photo)

Luke Jones, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme Project Coordinator, says, “Many of the youth on-island have grown up without considering the potential for careers within the environmental sector. The decline of the endemic mountain chicken means that most have grown up without hearing the frogs’ unique calls, which previously dominated much of Montserrat’s night-time soundscape. This project aims to forge a deeper connection to Montserrat’s natural and cultural heritage through increased engagement with schools, activities in the wider community, and provision of signage to highlight the fantastic nature we have on our doorsteps in Montserrat.”

An example of a mountain chickens foam nest at the facility. (MCP Photo)

“With this grant, we hope to engage the youth at a high level with the amazing natural resources they have here on-island and the value that exists in protecting them. We hope to guide them towards potential career paths through provision of opportunities to train and develop within environment-based roles.”

The project experienced delays due to COVID-19, however, Jones said the recruitment process will begin within the next few weeks.  “You can expect to see the job roles advertised on island through the usual government channels (online and over local radio), as well as through the Montserrat National Trust and the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programmes social media channels.”

The successful candidates will be employed through the Montserrat National Trust and will be embedded within the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme and seconded out to the Department of Environment to facilitate further learning opportunities and skill development. The recruitment process will likely consist of the submission of a C.V and cover letter, followed by interviews.

The Ministry of Education will be providing support by working with Jones and the Mountain Chicken Project to developdeveloping Outreach Initiatives, work placement opportunities and supporting environmental youth ambassador roles within the project. We hope that this will help to encourage the succession of youth on island into environmental roles and ensure skill exchange and retention on island.  We also aim to work with the MoE by contributing to the upcoming youth development policy and national curriculum reviews so that wildlife conservation, climate change, sustainability and green/blue economy are included as key elements in the policies.  This we hope will ensure more opportunities for youth on island to study and develop within these topic areas.

To encourage interaction and opportunities for people to connect with nature the grant will contribute to the development of signposting for nature trails around the island. It will also assist in the further development of the Mountain Chicken Recovery Programme’s outreach and engagement capacity, with a focus on internship, work placement and mentoring opportunities.
Other collaborating partners include Zoological Society London, Nordens Ark, Chester Zoo and Bristol Zoo, who continue to maintain safety net captive breeding populations of mountain chickens in Europe and provide vital husbandry advice and veterinary expertise to the field team in Montserrat.

The project team will also team up with WildDominique, a wildlife NGO in Dominica, to facilitate staff and knowledge exchanges between the two countries – the last known habitats of the mountain chicken.