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Island refuges in the Eastern Caribbean


With its stunning white-sand beaches and turquoise seas, it is little wonder that the UK Overseas Territory of Anguilla draws tens of thousands of visitors every year.

However, Anguilla’s beauty hides the serious conservation challenges faced here, with much of the island heavily affected by developments for residents and tourists.

Like many parts of the West Indies, Anguilla has also suffered from the spread of alien invasive species. Ship rats, brown rats, green iguanas, goats, cats and other feral animals are now widely distributed, posing grave threats to native plants and animals.

Anguilla is often struck by powerful hurricanes. As their frequency and severity increase due to climate change, it’s even more crucial to conserve the mangrove forests, coral reefs and other natural defences that protect coastal communities and biodiversity from high winds and storm surges.

What wildlife does Anguilla support?

Despite the degradation of much of mainland Anguilla’s natural habitat, this is still an important haven for biodiversity. It provides a welcome stopover for birds migrating between North and South America. Hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles all nest on its beaches. The territory is surrounded by 50 km2 of coral reef, much of it still in relatively good condition.

Anguilla also has more than 20 uninhabited limestone islands that provide vital sanctuaries for some of its most endangered plants and animals. The most remote is Sombrero, designated as an Important Bird Area and home to several globally threatened lizards and invertebrates found nowhere else in the world. Another rare endemic reptile, the Little Scrub lizard, is confined to the tiny island after which it is named. The privately owned Dog Island, which was cleared of rats in 2012 with Fauna & Flora support, is now a refuge for 200,000 pairs of nesting seabirds.

Other notable natives of this archipelago include the endangered Anguilla Bank racer, the Lesser Antillean iguana, the rare Anguilla bush and a host of resident and migratory birds.

Young adult female, Anguilla racer project. © Jenny Daltry

Magnificent frigatebirds and Giovanni Hughes, Dog Island (Anguilla National Trust). © Olivier Raynaud / Fauna & Flora

Fauna & Flora’s work in Anguilla 

Fauna & Flora has been active in Anguilla since 1997. Previous initiatives have included environmental education with local schools, trials to control the alien invasive iguanas, and a successful emergency campaign to prevent the island of Sombrero from being developed as a rocket launch site. 

In 2012, Fauna & Flora and partners embarked on an ambitious project to remove every single alien rat from the 207-hectare Dog Island, to allow its globally important wildlife to recover. After two years of careful monitoring the island was officially declared rat-free in 2014, making it one of the largest islands in the Caribbean to be successfully restored. Today, we continue to support our local partners to ensure that Dog Island remains rat-free, while restoring other critically important offshore islands, such as Prickly Pear Cays and Sombrero. 


Morning glory seedling on Sombrero Island. © Farah Mukhida / Anguilla National Trust

More about our work in Anguilla

Islands of Anguilla
Brown Booby with newly hatched chick. Credit: Richard Brown / Fauna & Flora / DIRP

Islands of Anguilla

Invasive species
People & the environment