St Lucia’s endemic reptile population on the verge of extinction

The Caribbean Net News site reports today that a nationwide scientific study of St Lucia’s reptiles and amphibians just completed has revealed that the island’s endemic reptile populations are approaching critically low levels. These species face extinction if measures are not taken to conserve the island’s unique forest biodiversity, according to the study, which was undertaken under the National Forest Demarcation and Bio-Physical Resource Inventory Project.

Head herpetologist Dr Jenny Daltry, a two-time National Geographic grantee and 2005 Emerging Explorer, states that among the 28 species of lizards, snakes and frogs there is a high number of species endemic to St Lucia. “In total there are seven endemic species and five subspecies which have been recorded,” states Daltry. However, the findings show that the forests habitats with the highest diversity and abundance of these species are found largely outside of the protected forests areas. Drawing on historical records and comparisons with other West Indian islands, this study found most of St Lucia’s native forest species have declined significantly in population size with some at critically low levels. By applying the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categories of threat, at least six reptiles native to St Lucia are now qualified as globally threatened with extinction.”
These critically endangered species include the St Lucia Racer and the St Lucia Iguana, with the St Lucia Whiptail Lizard falling into the endangered category. Other vulnerable species on the list are the St Lucia Pygmy Gecko, the St Lucia Thread Snake and St Lucia Viper.
The St Lucia Viper, commonly known as the Fer-de-lance, is one of the endemic species of particular concern. Project team leader Dr Bob Tennent acknowledged the significance and value of Dr Daltry’s work noting that the report contained important findings. “It will be contentious that she has found the St Lucia Fer-de-lance is now classified as a species vulnerable to extinction, but this is an important snake as it is found only in St Lucia.”
The study represents a comprehensive effort to catalogue and understand the reptile and amphibian biodiversity of St Lucia’s ecosystems. The findings will be used for development and implementation of conservation and management plans and to create greater awareness of the local flora and fauna, especially their importance and vulnerability.
For the complete report go to http://www.caribbeannetnews.com/news-20371–20-20–.html

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