Why are Union Island geckos under threat?
Tucked away on a tiny, mountainous island in the heart of the Caribbean, the Union Island gecko evaded taxonomists for decades.
Upon their discovery in 2005, they quickly became highly sought-after in the exotic reptile trade. Almost overnight, they began being captured in their multitudes, trafficked off the island and transported to Europe and the USA, where they were sold on to collectors at premium rates.
Their entire habitat consists of a 50-hectare area of ultra-rare ‘tropical dry’ forest in the highlands of Union Island, which itself is only nine kilometres squared. This means that – despite their tiny size – there’s not many places for these exquisite reptiles to hide. The poachers know exactly where to look and it’s all too easy for the geckos to be plucked from safety. Without constant monitoring from conservationists, the geckos have little hope of survival.
Additionally, parts of Union Island have been placed up for sale by the government. Inhabiting such a small area of unique ecosystem, Union Island geckos don’t have any habitat to spare – if the land were to fall into the hands of a large hotel chain or other development, the environmental consequences could be dire. This is why the Union Island Environmental Alliance (UIEA) aim to buy the land themselves, keeping it in the hands of local people and preserving its unique landscape.