The world’s most trafficked wildlife product is rosewood, a tropical timber tree from the Dalbergia genus that generates more revenue than elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts combined. Through the Global Trees Campaign , FFI is supporting its partner in Belize, Ya’axché Conservation Trust, to protect high priority populations of one rosewood species, D. stevensonii.
With a little help from Christmas tree consumers in Saint Lucia, this project aims to save a rare native juniper from extinction. The critically endangered pencil cedar was once widespread in Saint Lucia and Barbados, but today the last colony survives only on the rocky peak of Petit Piton mountain in south-west Saint Lucia. Only a few mature individuals remain here.
This project is working to restore a range of highly threatened tree species back into Brazil’s Araucaria forest. Following large-scale conversion of forests to farmland, less than 1% of the original primary forest remains, and at least 70 species of tree are now highly threatened. Although many tree planting initiatives are under way, ironically the rare and threatened species – those in greatest need of restoration – are seldom grown and planted (partly because these species are the most difficult ones to find and grow from seed).
The Caribbean islands form one of the most diverse biodiversity hotspots and have suffered a higher rate of species extinctions than any other region. Despite comprising only 0.15% of the Earth’s area, they account for at least 10% of the world’s recorded bird extinctions, 40% of mammal extinctions and more than 60% of reptile extinctions since 1500.
In 2017, FFI biologists teamed up with UNDP and the Environmental Awareness Group from Antigua to conduct an inventory of the biodiversity and conservation issues of all existing and proposed terrestrial protected areas in St Kitts and Nevis. The inventory documented many new country records of plants and animals, but also confirmed that native species and local communities alike are suffering very badly from the impacts of non-native species, especially green vervet monkeys, mongooses, rats and feral livestock.
Barbados has tragically lost most of its endemic species due to habitat loss and the introduction of invasive alien species such as mongooses and monkeys. The Barbados leaf-toed gecko was among those believed extinct until a tiny population was rediscovered in 2011. The University of the West Indies, which has a large campus on Barbados, requested FFI’s help to assess the species’ status and needs, and to advise on its conservation.
In 2015, FFI was approached by the St Vincent & the Grenadines Forestry Department to help save the Union Island gecko, a tiny jewel-like lizard known only from a restricted area of dry forest in Chatham Bay on Union Island. Further investigations confirmed that live geckos were being poached and sold abroad to collectors, and their forest habitat was in grave danger of being destroyed.
The endangered Lesser Antillean iguana used to inhabit many islands in the Eastern Caribbean but has been toppled from one country after another by overhunting and invasive alien species. The greatest threat today comes from common green iguanas, which first arrived as exotic pets and are now spreading rapidly across the region, transported by people and hurricanes. Bigger and faster breeding, the common green iguana takes over the habitats of native iguanas and interbreeds to form fertile hybrids.
Anguilla, a UK Overseas Territory, is in fact an archipelago of small karst islands, some of which harbour animals and plants that occur nowhere else. As the main island of Anguilla has become increasingly affected by development and the spread of harmful feral and invasive alien species, the offshore islands have assumed growing importance as wildlife sanctuaries and tourist attractions.
The Saint Lucia fer de lance is an endangered pitviper that is widely feared because of its potentially deadly bite. For many years, schoolchildren were erroneously taught that these snakes were brought to Saint Lucia to control runaway slaves. The Saint Lucia fer de lance is in fact unique to this country and rarely bites, but it is often killed on sight and is now listed as endangered.