With the extinction of most Partula species following the introduction of the carnivorous snail Euglandina rosea conservation effort has mainly focussed on the captive breeding of the few surviving species.11 species survive only in captivity and just 5 species still exist in the wild in French Polynesia. The captive breeding programme for the surviving species has been in place since the early 1990s and many species have existed only in small boxes in controlled conditions for many generations. Efforts are underway to find a way of returning them to the wild. This requires new approaches to conservation and reintroduction as there is no realistic prospect of eliminating Euglandina. Instead, we must find a way of enabling Partula to coexist with its introduced enemy.
The few remaining wild Partula in French Polynesia are the subject of in-situ conservation through a programme currently funded by the Mohammed Bin Zayed fund.
Prospects for the future
Rescuing Partula from extinction is challenging. Small predator-proof reserves can be created and captive-bred Partula released into these, the most recent release took place on Tahiti in July 2015. This works but they are very small, costly to establish and require constant maintenance to keep the defences secure. What is needed is a new solution to the problem and here research may offer hope. Not all the Partula were wiped out by Euglandina; five species survive, mostly in high sites that the predators have not reached yet, or are still too cold for them. There are some populations though which seem to coexist with the predators, although in greatly reduced numbers. It appears that there are some plants that make it hard for the predators to find their prey; if can identify what it is that enables these individuals to survive we may be able to devise a solution.
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