Antigua has a beach for every day of the year. It’s one of the mantras routinely trotted out in the tourist brochures. Ask the average person what images the word ‘Caribbean’ conjures up, and the clichés will come quick and fast, with crystal-clear waters, sun-soaked sandy beaches and calypso cricket featuring prominently.
Here’s a less familiar fact: the Caribbean has seen more reptile extinctions than any other region in the world, accounting for over 60% of all reptile species lost worldwide. Reptiles also feature prominently on the current list of the region’s 400+ critically endangered species – tour guides please note, that’s more than one for every day of the year – crying out for urgent conservation attention to ensure that they don’t suffer the same fate.
So far, so terrible, but here’s the good news: we may not be able to resurrect the Caribbean species that have already gone the way of the dinosaurs, but even the most critically endangered reptiles can be brought back from the brink. It’s not rocket science, although rockets do feature later in this story. And we’re not talking about extracting their DNA from mosquitoes embedded in amber. All it takes is sufficient resources and the right approach.
How can we be so sure? To coin another well-worn tourist phrase, we’ve got the T-shirt. Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been active in the region since 1994, mainly in the Eastern Caribbean. We have undertaken vital conservation work in 15 countries and territories – always at their invitation.
By addressing the key threats to the region’s reptiles and other endangered plants and animals, FFI and our partners have saved at least a dozen critically endangered Caribbean species from extinction and reversed the decline of many more. Those threats obviously vary from species to species, but there are certain recurring themes where reptiles are concerned.