The Open School of Tropical Animal

Science and Production


   5/28/2024 3:27:45 PM





Conservation International has identified the Caribbean as Biodiversity Hotspot. What is most interesting however is that Trinidad and Tobago are the only islands not included in their hotspot survey [Conservational International 2004]. They suggest that 11.3% of the Caribbean [including southern Florida and excluding Trinidad and Tobago] remain in its natural state. Trinidad and Tobago, however has about 33% of its landmass under natural vegetation [Table 3}. Thus suggests that this country has been historically a leader in conservation in the Caribbean.


Map of the Caribbean


Table 3: The amount of current forest cover recorded for Trinidad and Tobago.


  Trinidad (ha) Tobago (ha) Total (ha) Percentage
Forest Reserves 99,435 3,958 103,393 20.0
Forests on State Lands 62,089 3,366 65,455 12.7
Total 161,524 7,324 168,845 32.0


Source: Wildlife Section, Forestry Division of the Ministry of the Environment.


Table 4 suggests that in the Caribbean there are several terrestrial species in need of attention. The only way that this could be successfully and sustainably done is with the use of captive breeding and ex situ conservation in Zoos. In this regard zoos whose primarily roles are Recreation, Education, Conservation and Research can be used to function as both plant and animal collections for display/ recreation and educational purposes.


Table 4: Vital Signs of Caribbean Biodiversity Hotspots [Excluding Trinidad and Tobago]


Vital signs Numbers
Hotspot Original Extent 263,500
Hotspot Vegetation Remaining 29,840
Area Protected 41,000
Plant Species 12,000
Endemic Plant 7,000
Terrestrial Vertebrate 1,518
Endemic Terrestrial Vertebrate 779
Threatened Species^ 99
Critically Endangered 32
Extinct Species^ 51


^Endemic terrestrial vertebrates. Extinct species since 1500 

Source: Conservation International 2004:


Animal Biodiversity of Trinidad and Tobago


Trinidad and Tobago is centrally located within the neo-tropics. Trinidad and Tobago is a relatively small country, but its fauna is dense, and it contains the following:


Table 5: Species Diversity of Trinidad and Tobago


Major groups Number of species
Vascular plants 2,160
Mammals 95
Birds 450
Reptiles 85
Snakes 41-47
Insects 5000 (estimated)
Butterflies 600+
Fresh water fishes 45
Marine fishes 345
Reef building corals 6
Nematodes 200-300
Amphibians 30


Principle Source; Kenny, Comeau and Katwaru (1997) as cited by Cross (2001)


Map of Trinidad and Tobago


Trinidad and Tobago therefore has 630 terrestrial vertebrate species compared to the 1518 reported for the Caribbean in Table 4. Trinidad and Tobago is therefore animal biodiversity rich.



Dr. Gary W. Garcia, Ph.D.,

Department of Food Production, Faculty of Science and Agriculture,

The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.