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An introduction to the herpetofauna of Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda, with some conservation recommendations

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At least 29 reptiles and amphibians have been documented on Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda, of which 21 are probably native. These include four species of marine turtles, two of which (Eretmochelys imbricata and Chelonia mydas) are known to nest on the nation's numerous sandy beaches and forage in nearshore waters. The low-lying and largely sedimentary islands of Antigua (280 km2) and Barbuda (161 km2) formed a single island as recently as 12,000 years ago and exhibit a similar herpetofauna with high endemicity. At least four terrestrial species are endemic to the Antigua and Barbuda bank: Alsophis antiguae, Ameiva griswoldi, Anolis wattsi, Sphaerodactylus elegantulus (a possible fifth being Barbuda's Anolis forresti, if not synonymous with A wattsi), and a further five are Lesser Antillean endemics. Only six species have been documented on the small, rugged volcanic island of Redonda (1 km2), but as many as half of them occur nowhere else (Ameiva atrata, Anolis nubilus, and a potentially new Sphaerodactylus sp.). Centuries of forest clearance, overgrazing and development, coupled with the introduction of small Asian mongooses (Herpestes javanicus), black rats (Rattus rattus) and other alien invasive species, has endangered many of the nation's wildlife, and at least four indigenous reptiles have been extirpated (Boa constrictor, Clelia clelia, Iguana delicatissima, and Leiocephalus cuneus). Recent moves to enlarge the nation's protected area network are encouraging, but need to be supported with stronger legislation and proper investment in management staff and resources. This paper presents conservation recommendations and describes two projects that have adopted innovative approaches to save the most critically endangered reptiles — the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project and the Antiguan Racer Conservation Project.

Affiliations: 1: Fauna & Flora International, Great Eastern House, Tenison Road, Cambridge CB1 2TT, United Kingdom


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