Conserving Barbados’ Endemic Reptiles
Barbados leaf-toed gecko (Connor Blades 2021)

The Biodiversity Conservation and Management Section is pleased to announce that it has successfully secured funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for the project “Reducing the threats to endangered reptiles from habitat loss and Invasive Alien Species (IAS) through enhanced biodiversity governance and strengthened bio-security in Barbados“, or “Conserving Barbados’ Endemic Reptiles (CBER)” for short. The Section would like to thank its partners, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CAB International), for their dedication in assisting the development of this project.

Barbados leaf-toed gecko (Connor Blades 2024)

The project has two main components.

  1. Strengthening Policy and Governance
    Developing an integrated regulatory framework to address drivers of biodiversity loss and enhance biodiversity conservation through biosecurity. This includes the drafting of a National Biodiversity Conservation Bill with biosecurity elements, creating gender-responsive regulations, and building stakeholder capacity for the proposed legislative framework.
  2. Targeted Conservation Efforts
    Enhancing national capacity for the conservation of Critically Endangered endemic reptilian fauna. This involves establishing an additional bio-secure facility and educational centre, conducting population status and threats assessments, and exploring financial sustainability options to support species recovery post-project.

The project first aimed to assess three Critically Endangered reptile species found nowhere else but Barbados – the Barbados leaf-toed gecko (Phyllodactylus pulcher), the Barbados threadsnake (Tetracheilostoma carlae), and the Barbados skink (Alinea lanceolata) – but after consultation with experts, it was decided that the Barbados racer (Erythrolamprus perfuscus) should also be included.

The Barbados leaf-toed gecko has suffered major declines since rediscovery in 2011. Though it looks superficially like the invasive alien African house gecko, it is unique to Barbados and in danger of extinction. In the last 5 years its population has decreased from 6,000 to 4,000 individuals due to the impacts of habitat loss, invasive alien species and ashfall from La Soufriere volcano in April 2021.

Little is known about the Barbados threadsnake except that it is fossorial (lives underground), eats termite alates and eggs, and lays a single egg at a time. It is often confused for the introduced flowerpot snake, however, there are important differences as outlined below. Last collected in 2006 by Dr. Blair Hedges, the current status of this species is unknown but likely in peril.

Even less is known about the Barbados skink except that it gave birth to live young due to its highly developed placenta – much like eutherian mammals. It was known from swampy areas on the island and was likely terrestrial and diurnal like other neotropical skinks in the region. It is currently listed as Critically Endangered but likely Extinct as no confirmed reports have been made since 1889.

The Barbados racer is another unique endemic species with a similar looking species also found on Barbados. Though the racer is listed as Extinct by the IUCN, its most recent sighting was reported by the Barbados Environmental Association over 30 years ago in 1992. Because the racer looks so much like Barbour’s tropical racer (Mastigodryas bruesi), it is possible that sightings attributed to the tropical racer may have been of Barbados’ own endemic snake. The Barbados leaf-toed gecko was presumed extinct for 30 years before rediscovery. It’s possible that the Barbados racer may still exist.

The CBER project emphasises partnership, participation, and knowledge exchange among stakeholders to ensure successful implementation and long-term sustainability. The inception workshop for the project was held on March 15th, 2024, and was attended by a diverse group of members in the public and private sectors, civil society, tertiary institutions and local groups who provided their input on the project. It was here that the Barbados racer was recommended for consideration.

To learn about the project in more detail, you can refer to the project document below.

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