At-risk cahow and skink in the spotlight
Conservationists have highlighted the plight of two “critically endangered” endemics on the island, the cahow and the Bermuda skink.
Nonsuch Expeditions used Endangered Species Day to put a spotlight on the species.
Jean-Pierre Rouja said: “This Endangered Species Day, the Nonsuch Expeditions is highlighting two critically endangered Bermuda endemics - the cahow, and the Bermuda skink that were observed together on the CahowCam a few weeks ago.
“The endemic cahow is a 'lazarus species,' once thought extinct due to the introduction of predators to Bermuda, including rats, cats, dogs, and hogs, and because they were harvested for food by early settlers.
“The ground-nesting bird was remarkably rediscovered in 1951, and the Cahow Recovery Project has been able to increase the population of this rare seabird from just 18 nesting pairs when conservation efforts began in the early 1960s, to a record number of 155 breeding pairs in 2022.
“These graceful birds are ocean wanderers, spending most of their adult lives traversing the Sargasso Sea, hunting on the open ocean and sleeping on the wing.
“The Bermuda skink is Bermuda's only endemic reptile, likely the result of a similar species from the east coast of the US arriving to Bermuda, perhaps as a hitchhiker on floating debris and evolving into a distinct species.
“Skinks are charismatic little lizards with an orange throat patch. Unlike other lizards, they do not have sticky pads on their feet to enable them to climb up trees - but rather have long nails for traversing the limestone rockeries where they make their home.
“Currently the subject of a captive breeding programme to protect the species at Chester Zoo, habitat destruction and introduced predators have threatened skinks with extinction.”
Jeremy Madeiros, the Government Conservation Officer, said the recovery of the skink population on Nonsuch Island seemed to mirror the recovery of the cahow.
He said: “There were only seven or eight skinks living where the main Cahow colony is on Nonsuch Island in 2009. Now, 12 years later, I would estimate we have 50-60, possibly 70 living there.
"As cahows are increasing, skinks are increasing,“ he said. “They spend a lot of their time in and around the burrows, and we often see them on the CahowCams.
"In helping one critically endangered species, we are inadvertently helping another critically endangered species, by creating the perfect habitat, by recreating a large seabird colony there."