Endangered Species Act Saves Tiny Puerto Rican Gecko

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that Puerto Rico’s Monito gecko has recovered and is being removed from the list of endangered species.

The tiny, island-dwelling gecko is the 43rd species to be successfully recovered by the country’s strongest law for protecting imperiled wildlife, the Endangered Species Act.

The Monito gecko is found on only Monito Island, west of the main island of Puerto Rico. It was protected as endangered in 1982 because of the introduction of predatory rats and a decade of bombing of Monito for U.S. Air Force training.

Monito is now protected as part of the Mona and Monito Islands Nature Reserve of Puerto Rico. Following rat-eradication efforts by Puerto Rico wildlife officials, the Monito gecko has recovered.

“The Endangered Species Act gave these tiny, tenacious geckos the protection and resources they needed to recover,” said Elise Bennett, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney dedicated to protecting reptile and amphibians. “This critical conservation law has saved more than 99 percent of species under its protection and put hundreds more on the road to recovery.”

Despite the Act’s success, the Trump administration is working overtime to dismantle the law. In August the administration established new regulations that dramatically weaken protections by lessening standards for protecting critical habitat for species. The changes also eliminate automatic protections for species designated as “threatened” and make it harder for species to gain protection in the first place.

Responding to the Trump administration’s proposed changes, more than 800,000 people, 250 conservation scientists and 160 conservation organizations spoke out in opposition. In August the Center and several other conservation groups sued, and in September congressional Democrats introduced a bill to overturn the regulatory rollback.

“The American people want to stop species extinction and overwhelmingly support the Endangered Species Act,” said Bennett. “The Monito gecko’s story is one more proof that the Act works.”

The Monito gecko has a gray body and dark-brown tail, and it grows to be about an inch and a half long. It is only found on Monito Island, an impressive 36-acre limestone monolith that protrudes 71 yards out of the ocean. The barren-looking island is also home to the Monito skink, another small lizard, and nesting seabirds.

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