Supplement to the January 2008 REPTILES magazine article "Bahama Breakaway."
All native amphibians and reptiles receive protection from the Bahamian government. It passed the Wild Animals (Protection) Act of 1968 and ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty to sustain diverse life on Earth. The Bahamas is also party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Although conservation ethics are strong in the Bahamas, most efforts have been directed at marine resources (mostly economic ones) and large, showy birds. Some effort is underway to protect existing Cyclura populations and to study marine turtles, but most activity on these fronts is coming from the United States. Public meetings and workshops with Bahamian officials to establish better protection for rock iguanas have had no action, and long-range planning recommendations have been ignored.
Sea turtles also have their woes. Exporting marine turtles is prohibited by CITES, but green turtles and loggerheads can be taken locally outside the nesting season. Sea turtle nests are protected by law, but these turtles’ eggs are still commonly consumed on many of the “out islands,” a local term refering to the lesser populated and lesser visited islands.
A number of national parks are in the country, but for the most part, they receive little on-site protection. None have been established specifically for reptiles despite the high percentage of endemic fauna.
Feral dogs, cats, rats and introduced raccoons take a heavy toll on indigenous species. Introduced goats and horses compete with native herbivorous species, such as rock iguanas, for forage and dramatically change the landscape. Although it is well-documented that introduced species are particularly troublesome to island communities, only studies on their impacts on iguanas and seabirds have been done that document damage to Bahamian fauna.
Exotic plants are also a major problem on some islands. These plants form communities in which few native species can thrive. In some cases exotic plants quickly take over abandoned agricultural lands and out-compete native species on disturbed sites.
Like many other areas of the world, Bahamian development has a serious impact on wildlife, but the problem is compounded in the Bahamas because the tourist industry focuses on wild, undeveloped sites and small, somewhat remote islands. These sites would otherwise be spared from commercial development.
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