Union Island conservation initiative
Union Island is the most species-rich of the Grenadine islands. What began as a project to save the stunning Union Island gecko from extinction has expanded to include an island-wide initiative to develop nature-based, climate-sensitive solutions to poor employment and limited sustainable development opportunities.
In 2015, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) was approached by the St Vincent and 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. The gecko is threatened by the international pet trade and inappropriate development that risks destroying its forest habitat. A species recovery plan was developed with the Union Island community, and thishas guided our work – which ranges from halting illegal exploitation of reptiles and using the gecko as a flagship for conserving Union Island’s remarkably biodiverse forest, to supporting the island in developing climate–sensitive, nature-based enterprises.
The main project site is Chatham Bay, which ranks among the Caribbean’s top Key Biodiversity Areas. Our work aims to strengthen the management of this area, raise awareness of the Union Island gecko’s plight, and protect a host of other rare and endemic species (such as the Grenadines pink rhino iguana and the Caribbean diamond tarantula). Our work will build local capacity to become more resilient to climate change and other challenges. Because poverty on this low-income island is also inextricably linked to the protection of its remarkable biodiversity, we are also working with partners to develop diverse enterprises that consider the impacts of climate change and work in harmony with nature.
Through a strong partnership with the St Vincent and the Grenadines Forestry Department and local NGO The Union Island Environmental Attackers, our current work focuses on protected area management and expansion, anti-poaching patrols, public education about biodiversity and climate change, terrestrial and marine biodiversity monitoring, and promotion of (and investment in) sustainable livelihoods. FFI is also raising awareness of the Union Island gecko’s plight among key international policy makers. Our work has led to the listing of this Critically Endangered species on Appendix I of CITES – an important milestone in the fight to stop the illegal collection and trade of this gecko on the international market.
Programme is expanded to include the “Union Island climate change adaptation project: building resilient communities, sustainable livelihoods and healthy ecosystems”
Union Island gecko is listed under CITES Appendix I
Local wardens start to patrol forest
The Union Island gecko conservation action plan is developed, through a highly collaborative process
FFI has helped to bring millions of hectares of crucial habitat under conservation management by supporting the establishment of new reserves and community management areas.
Sophia Steele, Programme Manager, Antigua and Barbuda
The Union Island gecko is the most trafficked reptile in the Caribbean and among the world's most endangered lizards.