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Monito Island is an uninhabited and mostly inaccessible island of only about 36 acres. It lies west of Puerto Rico and was designated a U.S. National Natural Landmark in 1975. Photo by USFWS.

Proposed removal of the Monito gecko from the federal list of endangered and threatened wildlife

What action is the Service taking?

Following an in-depth status review, the Service is proposing to remove the Monito gecko from the federal list of endangered and threatened animals. The Service found that the species’ status has improved and it no longer meets the definition of either threatened or endangered.

A grey gecko blends into the surrounding limestone.
An adult Monito gecko is smaller than a human finger, and is known to exist on only one island in the world, off the coast of Puerto Rico. Photo by Jan Zegarra, USFWS.

How are the endangered and threatened classifications defined?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) defines endangered as “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” Threatened” is defined as “likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.”

What did the Service conclude?

The species is widespread throughout its habitat and numbering in the thousands. The Service also conducted an ESA threats analysis and found that all of the threats to the species have been eliminated or reduced, adequate regulatory mechanisms exist, and the population seems stable, so that the species is not currently, and is not likely to again become, an endangered species within the foreseeable future in all or a significant portion of its range.

What did the Service consider in reaching its decision to delist the Monito gecko?

Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA requires the Service to determine whether a species is endangered or threatened based on one or a combination of the five following factors:

  • The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
  • Over-utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
  • Disease or predation;
  • The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
  • Other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence.

In making this decision, the Service conducted a thorough status review based on these factors using the best scientific and commercial information available.

Did the assessment determine that the Monito gecko was meeting all recovery criteria outlined in the recovery plan?

The species recovery plan does not contain recovery criteria, but rather recovery actions that when accomplished, would lead to the species’ recovery. No quantitative recovery level was defined due to the lack of data on historical population levels, population trends, and apparent historical population size. The Service determined that the recovery actions were either met or no longer needed for the recovery of the species. Rat predation was considered the main cause of an apparent population decline for the Monito gecko. By August-September 1999, the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER) finalized its rat eradication campaign on Monito Island and currently remains rat free.

What is the range of the Monito gecko?

The Monito gecko is restricted to Monito Island, an isolated small island located in the Mona Passage, about 68 km (42.3 mi) west of the island of Puerto Rico, 60 km (37.3 mi) east of Hispaniola and about 5 km (3.1 mi) northwest of Mona Island.

What is the population status of the Monito gecko?

The most current survey (May 2016) estimated a gecko abundance of more than 7,000 geckos on Monito Island.

Will the public have an opportunity to participate in this decision?

Yes. As outlined in the proposed delisting rule, the Service is requesting information, data, and comments from the public regarding the proposal to delist the Monito gecko, and on the draft post-delisting monitoring plan. The Service is seeking comments regarding biological data; relevant data concerning any threats; the extent of Federal and state protection and management that would be provided to the Monito gecko as a delisted species; additional information concerning the range, distribution, population size, and trends of the Monito gecko; and current or planned activities within the geographic range of the species. All public comments will be reviewed and considered.

How will the peer review and public comments be considered in making the Service’s final decision?

All substantive information provided by peer reviewers and the public during the comment period will be either incorporated directly into our final determination or addressed in the Peer Review and State Comments or Public Comments sections of the final rule.

If the Monito gecko is delisted, will it continue to be monitored by the Service or some other agency/group?

Yes. As part of the Federal Register notification of the proposed delisting, the Service is announcing the availability of a draft post-delisting monitoring (PDM) plan. The PDM plan summarizes the species’ status at the time of delisting, defines thresholds or triggers for potential monitoring outcomes and conclusions, lays out frequency and duration of monitoring, articulates monitoring methods including sampling considerations, outlines compilation and reporting procedures and responsibilities, and proposes a post-delisting monitoring implementation schedule including timing and responsible parties. Post-delisting monitoring will be completed through the cooperative efforts of the Service, the PRDNER and other potential partners.

When was the current recovery plan developed?

The species’ recovery plan was completed and published in 1986.

Did Hurricane Irma have an impact on the gecko?

Hurricanes, including Irma, are not considered a threat to the Monito gecko because the island is 66 meters above sea level. The vegetation on the island is short and therefore hurricane impacts are expected to be minimal. Additionally, the Monito gecko is under rocks most of the time.

What is the next step?

The Service will consider all public and peer review comments on the proposed delisting rule and PDM plan and then make a final determination regarding the species’ delisting. Our determination will be published in the Federal Register.

Contact

Phil Kloer, Public Affairs Specialist
philip_kloer@fws.gov, (404) 679-7299

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