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.
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St Vincent and the Grenadines forms a long chain of more than 30 islands stretched between Saint Lucia to the north and Grenada to the south.
The number of Important Bird Areas designated in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The entire global range of the critically endangered Union Island gecko.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is a relative newcomer to St Vincent and the Grenadines, having first started working here in 2016. At the request of the SVG Forestry Department, our first action was to work with the department and residents on Union Island – one of the southernmost and poorest of the Grenadine islands – to develop a conservation programme for the critically endangered Union Island gecko.
This tiny but exquisitely beautiful gecko was first described in 2005 and has since become heavily and illegally exported for reptile collectors in Europe, North America and Japan. With support from the SVG Preservation Fund, Disney Conservation Fund, Virginia Zoo and FFI’s Species Fund, local wardens now patrol the gecko’s habitat and helped secure the successful arrest of a reptile poacher in 2017 – the first man to be prosecuted under the Wildlife Act. The next priority is to bring more of the gecko’s forest habitat under protection and to turn this jewel of a reptile into a mascot for Union Island, its sole refuge on the planet.
Our team is also working to conserve other rare species unique to St Vincent and the Grenadines, including what appears to be a new endemic species of iguana.
Union Island gecko initiative
Eastern Caribbean Offshore Islands Network
Habitat loss poses arguably the greatest threat to the world’s biodiversity, with human activity inflicting unprecedented changes on the natural habitats on which wildlife depends.
Almost 8,000 species of fish, amphibian, reptile, mammal and bird are officially categorised as globally threatened, and over 9,600 tree species are in danger of extinction.