Natural Necker: looking at the wonderful wildlife on Necker

Richard Branson pointing at the flamingos on Necker Island
Kami White
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 3 February 2023

Necker Island is a kaleidoscope of flora, fauna, beautiful birds, ancient giant tortoises, cheeky lemurs, hundreds of flamingos, colourful coral and endangered species. The wildlife on the island fills me with joy every day, and I’m forever grateful to the wildlife team (headed up by Vaman Ramlall) who have turned the remote and rugged island into a haven for endangered species.

The wildlife of Necker Island

The animals on the island make sure no two days are ever the same. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was on an early morning walk and heard a squeal of excitement. I looked up to see Emily, a member of the team, running towards me, clutching something tiny in her hands. It turned out to be the very first giant tortoise to have hatched on the island – and it was the first time giant tortoises have successfully bred naturally anywhere in the world outside of the Seychelles and Aldabra Islands. It’s quite profound to be in the company of mature giant tortoises, when you consider how ancient they are. The Aldabra giant tortoises we have on Necker have an average lifespan of more than 100 years and have been known to live for more than 250 years. You can’t help but wonder what the world will look like by the end of their lifetimes. You can also catch a glimpse our largest giant tortoise, Umpire, (who was born the same year as yours truly), in the wildlife video below.

Richard Branson's wildlife tour of Necker Island

As my grandchildren grow older and more curious, I wanted to write a book that tells the story of Necker’s wildlife, and explains why it’s so important to speak up for animals, as they cannot speak for themselves. The result is a beautiful book called Natural Necker, and it is full of fact files, species stories, conservation chapters, sustainability segments, wonderful illustrations, and words from our team on the island. I’m grateful to everyone who helped to bring this book to life – from the publishers at Master Storytellers to Vaman and his team, as well as the wonderful people at Virgin Limited Edition and Unite BVI. The book is a dedication to the people who work tirelessly on our conservation efforts in the BVI, and the wildlife whose beauty and brilliance make the hard work worthwhile. 

Richard Branson smiling and holding a baby tortoise on Necker Island
Kami White

The island is a very different place from when I first set foot here in the 1970s. When we arrived, the only people who had ever inhabited it were the Carib Indians who lived here hundreds of years ago and left almost no trace behind (apart from a few arrow heads and pieces of pottery). In the 1960s, two journalists tried to stay on the island as an experiment but called for help after two weeks! “It’s a real ‘virgin’ Virgin Island,” as my dad once said. I’m pleased to add that the two journalists visited us again and we struggled to get them to leave!

Looking ahead to the future, I hope the BVI will remain the vibrant place it is – thanks to everyone who works so hard to protect it, and all the wildlife that inhabit it. As Dr Sauda Smith – executive director at Unite BVI – wrote in the book: “We are stewards of the beauty around us.”