St Vincent and the Grenadines, often abbreviated to SVG, forms a long chain of more than 30 islands stretched between Saint Lucia to the north and Grenada to the south.
St Vincent is by far the largest island in area (344 m2) and population and has the national capital of Kingstown. Carib people aggressively prevented European settlement on St Vincent until 1719, making this one of the last Caribbean islands to be colonised.
While St Vincent has lushly forested – and occasionally active – volcanoes reaching up to 1,234 metres above sea level, the Grenadines are arid, low-lying limestone islands. Only nine of them are populated: Young Island, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Petit St Vincent, Palm Island and Union Island. This country is among the few permitted to hunt whales under IWC subsistence rules, with Bequia authorised to hunt up to four humpback whales per year.
Agriculture, especially bananas, is still the main contributor to the national economy, but the recent opening of an international airport has raised hopes that tourism will increase.
St Vincent has a long history of successful biodiversity conservation actions. Its most famous success was the recovery of the Saint Vincent amazon, a remarkably colourful parrot that was severely threatened by the pet trade. Thanks to an outreach campaign and stricter enforcement, the parrot population has rebounded from around just 400 individuals in the 1980s to more than 800 today.
There are many other species in urgent need of attention, however, including the rarely seen Saint Vincent blacksnake, Union Island gecko and a variety of corals and marine fish. Habitat degradation and overexploitation, particularly for the international pet trade, continue to pose a threat to many species.