The Effects Of The La Soufriere Volcano Ashfall On The Leaf-Toed Gecko
Volcanic ash on the eye of a Barbados leaf-toed gecko
Image Credit: Connor Blades, FFI

In our last article on the introduction of the endemic Leaf-Toed Gecko, the aim was to raise awareness to the species, and to highlight the preservation efforts being executed with the sole purpose of preserving the two main colonies here on the Island.  

This article brings awareness of the effects the ash-fall would’ve had, and how it impacted the natural habitat of the Gecko. To bring things into perspective, think from a personal level how the ash has affected us as human beings, and how it has affected even our pets, from bronchial blockages to allergic reactions and in a few cases even causing death as result of Asthma attacks induced by the ash fall. Now could you just imagine if you were the size of an insect or a Gecko?  Well think of that for a second, then maybe we could begin to understand how devastating the ash-fall would’ve been to the leaf toed Gecko as result of its miniature sizing and the harsh habitat where it lives, on the cliffs and in the crevices along our shorelines, which were open and susceptible to gathering vast accumulations of ash.  

The chain of events has triggered the need to further understand and find viable means of resolving the habitat issues by the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification, and as such, special attention has been allotted to working with local experts to find a viable solution in an effort to protect this endemic species.

(From left) Researcher Connor Blades/FFI conducting field research with the Hon.Adrian Forde M.P.,Minister of Environment and National Beautification. The study being conducted on the current health of the Leaf-Toed Gecko.

The population found on the cliffs at Paragon Military base is of significant importance to the survival of the species, and based on the rehabilitation efforts of the Ministry and its stakeholders, there has been unified efforts by means of assistance in securing the habitat as this work by the Ministry of Environment and National Beautification is carried out.

(From top Left) Lt.Shimar Gollop,Staff officer Media and Civil Military Affairs, Capt.Paul Alexander, Officer Commanding Special Operations Company.
(Bottom Left) Adrian Bellamy,Assistant Project Coordinator and Researcher Connor Blades/FFI.

Again, to magnify how this chain of events would’ve affected the Leaf-Toed Gecko, think about how the fruits we eat were affected (damaged) such as the tomatoes, and other fast rotating crops that were damaged and fell victim to rot as result. This brought instant shortages of supply, hikes in pricing and we simply had to do without these basic vegetables for some time, which created inflation.  

The main difference with us and the Leaf-Toed Gecko is that the gecko is limited to the choices or lack thereof, where choices of food is concerned.  To make it worse, while scavenging for food, the Gecko now opens itself to be hunted by its natural predators, the Centipedes and Rats.

As result of the points mentioned above, we’ve seen a worrying decline in the population abundance at the site since the ashfall, as well as the overall body condition of the geckos, with the latter presumably because of a decrease in arthropod (small Insects such as termites, ants, flies etc.) availability.  Simply put, there has been less to eat since the ash fall. 

To summarize, the current condition of the species is under close watch.  We will continue to monitor activity closely to ensure the habitat and predatory activity is regulated.  This will not be an easy task, but rest assure the Ministry of Environment through its Biodiversity unit will work tirelessly to protect and preserve this endemic species we call our own.

Hon.Adrian Forde M.P., Minister of Environment and National Beautification taking a very hands on approach and gaining detailed insights from researcher Connor Blades/FFI on the health and outlook of the Leaf-Toed Gecko

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