By Elesha George
Several rounds of applause filled the cinema as dozens of people gathered to witness the premiere of Redonda: The Road to Recovery – a story documenting the rebound of Antigua and Barbuda’s third island.
Many waited eagerly to see the island’s transformation for the first time since the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) embarked on a bold project to rid Redonda of black rats, in an effort to restore its ecological significance.
And it is no easy feat to restore a mile-long desolate island in the middle of the sea into an ecological sanctuary for wildlife, no matter what anyone says.
But the EAG was able to accomplish just that, and after six years of research and ground work, they successfully rewilded Redonda which was filled with dying wild goats and black rats that disrupted the balance of the island’s soil and bird species.
It took effort from many local and international enthusiasts who caught the vision to restore a once flourishing island to its former glory.
“For us, this says that conservation requires many local actors. Not just ecologists but also artistes and creatives as we want to welcome all of them into this space,” said Johnella Bradshaw, Redonda Ecosystem Reserve Coordinator and a member of the EAG.
“If it was ever a moment to be a proud Antiguan and Barbudan in 2022, this is it,” she told a crowd of patrons waiting to see the documentary which aired for the first time at the red carpet premiere at the Caribbean Cinemas on Wednesday night.
Videographer and a member of the EAG’s board of directors, Lawson Lewis, said his three “rough” days spent on the island were well worth the effort.
“There is a part where I’m editing and I’m saying, okay I don’t really need this shot but I almost died to get this shot,” he said jokingly.
The 30-minute documentary shows the dramatic first stages of Redonda’s recovery from a rat-infested rock, to a highland glossed by captivating sunsets and teeming with wildlife including various bird species and endemic lizards.
During the ceremony, the EAG acknowledged the support of the Department of Environment whose staff provided technical support and advice as well as access to the island.
As a result of that partnership, Nneka Nicholas, Legal Consultant, Department of Environment, said, “They were able to document the growth of all the different species on the island and not only document it in pictures but actual data that they’ve been able to share.”
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) also played an integral role in the outcome of Redonda, securing international funding and by providing staff and volunteers who dedicated time in the field.
“It will be important to remember that just six short years ago Redonda was totally barren and eroding into the sea. Its unique and exceptional wildlife was declining or in some cases had already disappeared altogether but since then Redonda has undergone a magical transformation,” remarked Olivier Raynaud, FFI’s Eastern Caribbean Advisor.
“Redonda has taught us and keeps teaching us a number of important lessons,” he said, including the power of partnerships in facing great challenges.
“The problems on Redonda were impossible to solve for any entity on its own. It really required our skills, our expertise,” along with input from the EAG, the Department of Environment and local businesses and individuals who assisted.
Raynaud declared that in the end, “Redonda benefitted from a mighty task force.”
Arica Hill, the EAG’s Executive Director, expressed the entity’s intention to submit the documentary for award-winning international film competitions.
The Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams was in attendance at Wednesday’s premiere and complemented the efforts of the EAG and its partners.
Redonda: The Road to Recovery officially hit the big screen for public viewing Thursday night and will be available via the EAG’s Youtube channel in future.