Emerald in the sea

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.

Saint Lucia facts
Country in Americas & Caribbean

Size (land & water):

616 km²

Population (2016 est.):

164,464

GDP per capita (2016 est.):

US$12,000

Saint Lucia is an island nation located in the West Indies. Its nearest neighbours are Martinique, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

2,000

Saint Lucia amazon parrots now live in the country, up from only about 100 in the 1970s.

20

is the estimated total number of Saint Lucia racers that remain in the world.

 

Our work to protect Saint Lucia’s biodiversity

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) first began working on Saint Lucia in 2000, when we assisted the Forestry Department and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust to eradicate alien rats from Praslin Island to conserve the rare Saint Lucia whiptail lizard.

Since then, we have played a vital role in supporting the Forestry Department to manage Saint Lucia’s natural resources sustainably. This work has included conducting comprehensive surveys of the island’s forests and terrestrial flora and fauna, identifying priorities for conservation and helping the Forestry Department to devise its national forest management strategy.

One of our most striking success stories in Saint Lucia relates to the lansan tree, a species of great local value to people due to its resin, which is used to create incense. However, habitat loss and overexploitation had decimated populations of this tree throughout its range.

In 2010, we began providing technical and financial support to the Forestry Department to solve the problem of destructive tapping practices to harvest the resin, which causes the premature death of numerous lansan trees, even inside the Forest Reserve. Thanks to this work a new, sustainable method for tapping was found that not only minimises damage to the tree but also yields more resin – a real win-win for people and the environment.

Our work in Saint Lucia continues to this day, and includes a project to save the Saint Lucia racer from extinction that aims to replicate our success with the Antiguan racer (which has increased in number from just 50 when we first began working with the species to over 1,100 today).