Union Island Gecko: Critically Endangered Tiny Reptile Returns From The Abyss

The population of Union Island geckos has declined sharply due to growing demand from the illegal international pet trade, but conservationists working with local people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have helped increase their numbers


November 30, 2022

The Union Island Gecko (Gonatodes daudini) is small but mighty

Jacob Bock / Fauna and Flora International

An endangered species of gecko that’s brightly colored and the size of a paperclip has nearly doubled since 2018 thanks to conservation efforts in partnership with local residents.

The Union Island Gecko (Gonatodes daudini) occurs in the forest of Chatham Bay on the island of the same name in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. First scientifically described in 2005, it quickly became very attractive to the illegal international pet trade thanks to its multicolored, jewel-like markings. This led to aggressive poaching and trade, causing the wild population to decline.

The remaining reptiles live in a 50-hectare patch of jungle, making them particularly vulnerable to human activity. Therefore, in 2016, the Forest Service of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and conservation organizations worked with local residents to develop a species restoration plan.

These conservation efforts have ranged from the expansion and increased management of protected areas to anti-poaching patrols and 24-hour camera surveillance by community wardens in the forest. As a result, the number of geckos on Union Island has increased from 10,000 in 2018 to 18,000 today.

“As a Unionist and community leader, I am extremely proud to be a part of this success story,” said Roseman Adams, co-founder of the local Union Island Environmental Alliance, in a statement.

“Saving the Union Island gecko in the wild was a collaborative effort,” says Jenny Daltry of Fauna and Flora International and Re:wild, two international conservation organizations involved in the work. “It’s great to work with the people of Union Island and they are justifiably very proud of their unique gecko and ancient forest.”

Success in protecting the gecko has prompted conservation groups to develop a broader initiative aimed at protecting other wildlife in Chatham Bay Forest, while creating sustainable employment and development opportunities for the local community. “Even though it’s small, it’s brimming with endangered and endemic animals and plants, and new species are still being discovered,” says Daltry.

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