10 of the World’s Most Isolated Islands
Isolated islands can be essential sanctuaries amidst the ocean for some of the world’s most loved animals, but they can often also be home to weird and wacky critters that have evolved in different ways from animals on the mainland. So, I’ve pulled together a list of some of the world’s most special islands, and the wildlife that lives there (or used to).
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
In the middle of the Atlantic, this group of islands provides homes for the planet’s biggest animals. Many species of whales come here to feed in the food-rich waters, powered by swirling currents mixing up the seas. It’s one of the best places in the world to go on an awe-inspiring whale watching trip, with sperm whales and blue whales top of everyone’s ‘must-see’ list.
Although lemurs may not dance as much in real life as they do in the movies, they are remarkable nonetheless. Millions of years of evolution with limited competition mean lemurs come in all shapes and sizes: they can be tiny, fluffy, striped, jumpy, giant, shy, noisy or just downright weird. Top prize for the strangest goes to the bug-eyed, big-eared aye-aye. It looks like a Gremlin in a fur coat, and its bizarre elongated middle finger helps it find and feast on beasties living inside tree trunks. That’s right; the aye-aye is Madagascar’s mammal version of a woodpecker!
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Dodo—two syllables synonymous with extinction. This island paradise was a safe haven for the dodo, with no land predators it became flightless, nesting on the ground. That wasn’t much protection when boatloads of humans arrived. Mauritius’ slow-moving giant tortoises didn’t last long either. Thankfully, the story for other unique animals like the Mauritius kestrel & the rather dapper pink pigeon, is not as dire as the dodo’s.
Giant tortoises, marine lizards, tropical penguins and more than a few famous finches make these islands almost legendary. This chain of volcanic islands helped Charles Darwin bring us his theory of evolution, and they are now synonymous with unique and amazing island wildlife, as well as central to a booming ecotourism industry.
5. Chagos Archipelago:
One of the most pristine coral reef habitats in the Indian Ocean, the Chagos’ coral islands are a haven for birdlife, and giant coconut crabs. But it is in the oceans that the biodiversity gets serious, as well as complicated coral reefs, creating underwater forests for lots of little critters and baby fish, they are home and sanctuary to many globally-endangered shark and turtles.
The kingdom of the ice bears isn’t just for polar bears, but you best be sure they are in charge! As well as being home to the Arctic’s most iconic mammal, these islands abound with birds and walrus.
7. Commander Islands:
… the where?! This remote group of islands in the Bering Sea may not be everyone’s ideal holiday destination, but they tell a cautionary tale. The Commander Islands were the only known home of the Steller’s sea cow, a massive kelp-eating marine mammal that is now extinct. Isolated for millennia the peaceful sea cows were no match for humans who arrived en route to hunt for furs. It didn’t help that they were slow and tasty. Today the sea-cow’s smaller surviving cousins, the dugongs and manatees are still with us, let’s keep it that way.
8. South Georgia:
At the other end of the world the isolated islands of South Georgia have a chequered past. They were once a hub for the industrialized whaling of the Antarctic ocean, carnage that drove species like the blue whale to the very brink of extinction. These days though, the whaling stations are abandoned, and the islands have been handed back to the vast colonies of fur seals, penguins and albatross. They, like the whales, are only here because vast swarms of tiny krill fill the cold seas with food.
Here be dragons. The world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, lives only on a couple of islands in Indonesia. They are fearsome predators, and give us a glimpse of what it may have been like when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Komodo dragons may seem reptilian giants to us today, but they are thought to be smaller than their much-more-massive ancestors.
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Not one island, but many—in fact, many thousands. Seamounts are submerged mountains, they don’t break the sea surface, but they are still "islands" in most senses. A handy way to describe them is like high seas service stations—they offer refuge, food and facilities for oceanic travelers like hammerhead sharks and turtles, as well as fish like orange roughy. Although they may not be the sexiest or showiest of species, many things found on seamounts are unique to that one seamount. Destructive fishing methods can (and sadly do) wreck these unique and remote features.
The one thing that links all of these islands is the ocean. Unique islands and species should be protected, but we urgently need to give oceans need more protection too. More than two thirds of our oceans are beyond national boundaries, and there is simply no regulation to protect these areas for the species that depend on them.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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