skip to content
Two light tan and grey reptiles with dark eyes walking on organic soil.
Information icon A pair of Monito geckos. Photo by JP Zegarra, USFWS.

Monito gecko saved from the brink of extinction

Service and partners celebrate successful recovery of a once imperiled reptile

The Monito gecko, a resilient little lizard that lives only on Monito Island in the Caribbean Sea, is officially recovered thanks to an effective conservation partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (PRDNER). The species is now so abundant that it no longer warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

A small, rocky, vegetated island with mainland Puerto Rico in the distance
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.

The gecko was originally listed as endangered in 1982 due to an influx of black rats, a non-native omnivore that preyed upon the species throughout its range. In 1992, PRDNER began a black rat eradication project and the agency mounted a second eradication initiative in 1999. Thanks to their efforts, and assistance from a variety of other conservation partners, black rats have been officially eradicated and there are now more than 7,600 Monito geckos on the island.

“This delisting is the latest recovery success achieved with our wildlife partners, and shows how well the ESA can work to protect wildlife,” said Bryan Arroyo, Deputy Director of the Service. “We are grateful to our friends in the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, who worked with us to guide this successful recovery effort.”

“The delisting of the Monito gecko is a significant success for all of the partners who worked toward this goal,” said PRDNER Secretary Tania Vazquez. “PRDNER will keep working to ensure the protection of the gecko and its habitat.”

“I commend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources for their successful conservation partnership and their ongoing efforts to protect the Monito gecko and other unique species across our islands,” said Congresswoman Jennifer González-Colón of Puerto Rico, who serves on the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.

Along with the delisting, the Service is also publishing a post-delisting monitoring plan to ensure the population’s long-term viability. The plan summarizes the species’ current status, defines thresholds for potential monitoring outcomes and conclusions, outlines reporting procedures and responsibilities, and other conservation actions. Post-delisting monitoring will be completed through the cooperative efforts of the Service, PRDNER and other partners.

Funding for the rat eradication project was provided to PRDNER by the Service through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, which provides grants to states and territories to undertake conservation actions. The Service also provided funding to other partners to conduct Monito gecko and black rat surveys.

About an inch and a half long, an adult Monito gecko can fit on your index finger with room to spare. It is named for its island habitat, a 36-acre uninhabited slab of limestone covered in scrub vegetation that juts sharply out of the sea about 50 miles west of Puerto Rico.

PRDNER continues to manage Monito Island as a nature reserve, protecting its wildlife and vegetation. In addition to its namesake gecko, the island, which is closed to the public, harbors one of the largest seabird nesting colonies in the Caribbean and is also home to the endangered yellow-shouldered blackbird and the Harrisia cactus.

This final rule and post-delisting monitoring plan for the Monito gecko are available at regulations.gov under Docket No. FWS–R4–ES–2017–0082.

Learn more about the Monito gecko, the post-delisting monitoring plan, or read the frequently asked questions associated with this announcement.

Contact

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

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit fws.gov. Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

Contact Us:

Looking for a media contact? Reach out to a regional spokesperson.

Share this page

Tweet this page on Twitter or follow @USFWSsoutheast

Share this page on Facebook or follow USFWSsoutheast.

LinkedIn

Share this page on LinkedIn