Though less than 616 km2 in area, the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia is exceptionally rich in animals and plants. The country is home to well over 2,000 native species, of which nearly 200 species occur nowhere else (including 76% of its terrestrial reptiles).
The nation’s best-known species is the gorgeous but endangered Saint Lucia amazon parrot. Other species of conservation concern include the pencil cedar, staghorn coral and Saint Lucia racer. The racer, confined to the nine-hectare island of Maria Major, is thought to be the world’s most threatened snake.
Although Saint Lucia’s rugged, volcanic interior remains thickly forested and healthy coral still abounds offshore, its flatter areas inland have long been cleared for agriculture. The island’s coastal dry forests are increasingly being destroyed for tourism development. Saint Lucia’s biodiversity is also threatened by over 300 alien invasive species (including rapacious mongooses and opossums as well as hundreds of alien plants) and overexploitation. At least 69 native species have already disappeared.
Today, Saint Lucia faces the challenge of enabling economic growth and development without destroying the many wonders of its natural world.