Conservation efforts underway to protect Union Island gecko
February 9, 2016
Conservation efforts underway to protect Union Island gecko

Although a specieS of gecko, thought only to be found in Union Island, is regarded by the international scientific community as “critically endangered”, a Forestry supervisor has asserted that more research needs to be done before this can be said conclusively.

Speaking with SEARCHLIGHT yesterday, February 8, Cosmos McLeod explained that in-depth research needs to be done to ascertain the threat currently posed (if any) to the Gonatodes Daudini – more commonly known as the Union Island clawed gecko or ‘Daudin’s gecko’.{{more}}

“It would be safe to say that it’s under threat, but to give the degree of threat, you would not be able to give the position to say that as yet,” insisted McLeod.

“Because no scientific studies have been conducted, it would not be advisable to declare it per se. It’s mainly a cursory observation that you have activities going on… alleged activities of persons trading et cetera, and the habitats being destroyed.”

The Forestry supervisor confirmed that an action plan is being established to conserve and protect the species, which involves collaborative efforts from the Forestry Department, the Virginia Zoo (USA) and the SVG Preservation Fund.

“We are actually going to have a community consultation this week in Union Island, but it’s targetted to specific persons… We do not want to create a public alarm,” cautioned McLeod.

“Sometimes if persons recognize that the species is of economic importance, instead of protecting it, they end up becoming a problem themselves. So, we have to be very cautious about how we disseminate this information to the public.”

The Gonatodes Daudini was first brought to international attention in 2005, when two American scientists, Bob Henderson and Robert Powell, were contacted by local amateur naturalist Father Mark de Silva about a possible new species of gecko.

Since then it has been listed as “critically endangered” by the ‘Red List’, a 50-year-old conservation organization, which asserts that there has been a “continuing decline” in the size and quality of the species habitat.

The Union Island clawed gecko has currently only been identified in the slopes above Chatham Bay, Union Island – giving scientists cause to believe that it may be a species that is unique to the Grenadine Island.

However, McLeod said that there also needs to be more research done to verify whether the species is truly unique to Union Island, as it is a possibility that it just hasn’t been discovered in neighbouring islands as yet.

He also explained that the Forestry Department is in the process of mapping the gecko’s habitat in Union Island, and is putting together pertinent information that can be used to sensitize the public on the species.

McLeod described the move as a “learning process” not only for the public, but also for members of the Forestry Department. (JSV)