(By Ernesto Cooke) – A decision has been taken at the 18th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, Geneva Switzerland to list the Union Island gecko, found on in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, on Appendix 1 of the CITES Convention.
The Forestry Department in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and its collaborating agencies are celebrating after a decision was taken at the Eighteenth Conference of Parties in Geneva to afford this Critically Endangered species the highest level of protection against exploitation and illegal trade.
This positive move follows research to support this listing spearheaded by the Forestry Department and its technical collaborative partner’s Fauna Flora International (FFI), and the University of Cambridge and approved by the local CITES Management, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry, and Labour. This research revealed a surge in demand for endemic Caribbean reptiles driving the Union Island gecko towards extinction
An Appendix 1 listing allows for the international protection of this species. The international collector trade has emerged as a major new threat to this extremely colorful gecko, also known as the Grenadines clawed gecko, with collectors in the US, Europe and Japan targeting the small number of individuals left alive in the wild. This is according to Senior Forestry Supervisor (SFS), who presented the case for listing of the daudini at the CoP18.
St Vincent & the Grenadines is the source of at least 14 traded reptile species including the Union Island gecko. While the Wildlife Protection Act (Act 16 of 1987, amended by Act 42 of 1988, Act 16 of 1991, protects the species from removal from St Vincent & the, it has not been protected
under international law. This encouraged the illegal removal of the gecko and once outside St Vincent & the Grenadines, traders and sellers of this critically endangered species were able to operate freely.
SFS Richards also indicated that the Union Island gecko’s sole habitat, a 100-acre patch of on Union Island, has been heavily scoured by collectors seeking to profit by illegally supplying the gecko to western markets. Fewer than 10,000 Union Island geckos remain in the wild. In some areas, Union Island gecko numbers have fallen by 80% since 2010.
SFS Richards commented that “the struggle to protect our Union Island Gecko against its poaching and illegal trade continues to be a challenge to the Forestry Department. My department is working relentlessly to protect this species and its critical habitat along with our conservation partners.
This listing of the Union Island Gecko to CITES Appendix I is indeed a positive step towards affording the species international protection against trade. We are heartened by the support offered thus far in developing modalities for effective protection against trade.
Restricted international trade, coupled with the proper management of the gecko and its habitat on Union Island will be critical to maintaining a viable population of this beautiful and rare species.
The Forestry Department therefore, will continue to pursue the protection the gecko as well as other critically endangered species to ensure they are available future humanity to enjoy”
Permanent Secretary Raymond Ryan, as Head of Delegation to CoP18 and of the local CITES Management Authority states” this is a major achievement by St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in particular the Forestry Department.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend persons who would have contributed to the listing process.
The government has always pursued a policy for the conservation of forests and wildlife recognizing the contribution of these resources to the sustainable wellbeing and livelihoods of Vincentians.
The listing of this small but important species signifies a significant milestone in our efforts in conservation and proper management of our natural resources”.
Meanwhile Hon. Saboto Caesar, praises the hard work of technicians in the department of Forestry and bona fide conservationists such as the St. Vincent Preservation Fund and community-based organizations in Union Island.
The commendation came for the massive success in championing the process for the protection of the Union Island Gecko.
“It is a day we must celebrate,” Caesar said.
We have protected our turtles, now the Union Island Gecko and very soon the parrotfish.
The Ministry of Agriculture and the Association for the Conservation of Threaten Parrots will also be making a major announcement soon on a massive success of the conservation initiative regarding the protection of the national bird.
This is all part of the government’s mandate to ensure that we protect our resources for the enjoyment of present and future generations.