As a result of invasive snails being brought to various south pacific islands in the 1950s, the Partula snail has been devastated. This year, however, researchers and scientists have begun the world’s largest reintroduction campaign to bring them back home.
The restoration in reintroduction
Reintroduction efforts of species devastated in the wild are incredibly important in maintaining balance in ecosystems worldwide. Throughout the 20th century, many different invasive species were brought to ecosystems without the consideration that these species might be a major contributor to the destruction of the balance.
This has been the case for the ecosystems of Tahiti and Moorea. In these islands, there live an important species of snail called Partula, and on these islands, many of these species have been exterminated by the rosy wolf snail and the African land snail brought by humans to the islands.
The Partula species of snail play an important role in the ecosystem, by eating dead plant tissue and debris, these small snails help maintain the health of the forest. As a result, a reintroduction effort is being led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL,) the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and the Sant Louis Zoo. It is bringing these snails back to their native habitat in the largest reintroduction effort of Partula.
How did we get here?
In the 1950s, African land snails were brought to southern Pacific islands to provide food for the American military. These captive snails escaped and, as a result, prompted the Americans to attempt biological control by introducing the rosy wolf snail.
The idea was for the rosy wolf snail to hunt and kill the African land snails; however, this failed as the rosy wolf snail preferred to hunt Partula species. This led to the near-complete extinction of many Partula species, leaving only the rosy wolf snail and African land snail left.
In the 1990s, researchers from the ZSL and other organizations began rescuing Partula species on the islands, bringing them to wildlife sanctuaries and zoos to help rebuild their populations. They hadn’t been able to bring them back to their original habitat for a while, mainly because the invasive snails were still thriving.
However, with the boom and bust cycle taking its toll on the rosy wolf snail and African land snail populations, as well as another predator feeding on the snails, the Partula snails are ready to be safely reintroduced to their home. In April of this year, the ZSL began reintroducing these small tree snails back to the islands of Tahiti and Moorea in the largest reintroduction effort ever to be conducted.
The responsibility in reintroduction
This reintroduction effort is a shining star in a void of despair regarding the destruction and extinction of various species due to climate change. The knowledge that we truly can have a direct positive effect on the livelihood of our animal neighbours is incredibly hopeful.
We have a responsibility to do so; as humans, we have made changes to our environment that have taken a toll on so many beyond us. With climate change continuing, we have made many strides in curbing the causes behind the devastation we have brought. The next step, that these researchers are showing is possible, is to make a direct effort to save the animals we have harmed.