Minister: ‘Skinks Enjoying Luxury In New Home’

July 5, 2013

Minister of Environment and Planning Sylvan Richards delivered a Ministerial Statement in the House of Assembly today [July 5] regarding the on-going efforts to preserve the Bermuda Skink.

The Bermuda Skink is one of the rarest lizards in the world, and are considered critically endangered.

Twelve skinks were transported overseas to Chester Zoo in the UK start a captive breeding program, and Minister Richards said: “I am pleased to report that our emigrants are all doing well and apparently enjoying relative luxury in their new home”.

Video courtesy of the Dept. of Conservation:

Minister Richards’ full statement follows below:

Thank you, Mr. Speaker

Mr. Speaker,
I rise this morning to report to the Members of this Honourable House and the people of Bermuda on the on-going efforts of the Ministry of Environment and Planning to preserve the Bermuda Rock lizard, or as it is better known, the Bermuda Skink.

Mr. Speaker,
Unfortunately, the urbanization of the island that we are so privileged to enjoy comes with an environmental cost. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment and Planning to do its best to mitigate these challenges and do everything in its power to preserve all that we can for future generations.

Mr. Speaker,
A lifeboat can be defined as a small boat kept on a ship for use in an emergency. This same philosophy is being used for the conservation of our unique and threatened species.

While every effort is being made to safeguard the species on island, the Department of Conservation Services has been actively seeking assistance from international partners to ensure that Bermuda will never lose its unique species to a manmade or natural disaster.

Working with our international partners, and at no cost to the Government I might add, we have sent representatives of our at risk species, such as the Killifish, Governor Laffan Fern, endemic snail and seeds of our endemic plants overseas for safe keeping, to institutions such as the Omaha Zoo, Durrell Wildlife Centre, Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Vienna Zoological Society, the London Zoological Society and most recently Chester Zoo in the U.K.

Mr. Speaker,
This precautionary approach has already proven extremely beneficial. The Killifish in Vienna are thriving, and we are learning a lot about their life cycle. Kew has asked permission for other countries to use some of the seeds collected from our rare plants in the hopes of establishing colonies in other parts of the world.

Unfortunately, after an extensive search, it appears that we have lost the five endemic snail species we once had. We believe our snails have fallen victim to two introduced predatory snails and a flatworm.

As such the only population of one type of Bermuda snail now resides at the London Zoo, under the care of the London Zoological Society. In due course we are hoping to return a portion of the London snails to Bermuda and to re-establish them in parts of Bermuda that are free of these predators.

Mr. Speaker,
The Bermuda Skink is an example of another endemic species under extreme threat.

Records show that while it evolved on Bermuda for a million years into the unique species it is today, it is now being impacted by loss of habitat, the introduction of pests, competition from other lizard species, predatory birds, cats, as well as thrown away bottles, which act as deadly traps.

Due to these pressures, the skink’s numbers have plummeted and the island’s population has been pushed to the edge of extinction. Currently it is one of the rarest lizards in the world.

The Bermuda Skink is an iconic species for Bermuda and it is our duty to actively preserve and recover it as best we can. Therefore, I am pleased to announce that through the efforts of the Department of Conservation Services, the Bermuda Zoological Society and our new friends at Chester Zoo, there is new hope for the island’s only endemic lizard.

Mr. Speaker,
This month, a team led by Dr. Gerardo Garcia from Chester Zoo, in partnership with the Department of Conservation Services, transported 12 skinks overseas in order to start a captive breeding program. I am pleased to report that our emigrants are all doing well and apparently enjoying relative luxury in their new home.

The ultimate aim will be to not only have a safeguarded population overseas but also to develop a recovery toolkit on how to best rear these unique creatures in captivity using the expertise of the Lower Vertebrate and Invertebrate Department of Chester Zoo.

Mr. Speaker,
Dr Garcia and his team will recreate the climate of Bermuda using temperature data taken from the islands where the skinks were found, together with other elements of the lizards’ natural surroundings, such as rock, coral and forest substrates, to create the optimal breeding conditions.

The zoo’s veterinary experts will also research the skinks’ biology, carrying out ultrasounds in an effort to understand them better. Experiments will also be conducted on microchipping techniques, so ultimately, conservationists will be able to track skinks in the wild to determine how long they live and how far they travel.

Mr. Speaker,
The length of time required to develop the toolkit will depend on the skinks themselves – the six pairs at Chester Zoo are entering the breeding season – but it may be another year before they successfully breed and before the complete guide is ready. The results will then be shared with Bermuda’s Department of Conservation Services and its support charity the Bermuda Zoological Society.

Mr. Speaker,
On behalf of the Bermuda Government, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to not only Chester Zoo and Dr. Garcia, but also to all our overseas partners who are providing us the use of their facilities, their expertise and advice to ensure that our most threatened species survive for future generations to experience and enjoy.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.


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Category: All, Environment

Comments (10)

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Articles that link to this one:

  1. UK Zoo Continues Work With Bermuda Skinks | | August 15, 2013
  1. Valirie Marcia Akinstall says:

    And when are our Skinks coming back home?

    Knowing the English the bill for housing, healthcare and endanger specie care will follow very shortly. Some-one has to pay for the care – it’s not free.

    Financial strategy – when they present their bill, you present ours, for the unmitigated privilege to study one of the rarest reptiles on earth. Some-one may just write their dissertation on the subject and, yes s/he probably will be employed in such a narrow field of research. But back to our bill, the English are so very quirky that they will most likely pay it.

    Conversely, the English are very enthusiastic, dedicated and detailed about protecting, preserving and releasing endanger species back into their natural habitats. Realistically, can the Skinks survive in Bermuda as our landscape changes so rapidly?

    London, England

    • Brad says:

      Wow, someone is a little tightly wound this morning. Take a few deep breaths. Down girl.

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      What the hell are you talking about. Any excuse to complain.

  2. Black Soil says:

    Keep up the good work brother Sylvan.

  3. Valirie Marcia Akinstall says:

    Down girl – isn’t that how you speak to children and pets? And, you complain about my commentary.

    @Sandy Bottom…
    Where you see a complaint, I see and speak of opportunity, English opportunities.

    The English endow over £50 million to endanger species causes, for their protection and to re-introduce them into their natural environments, They are very generous donors to research and unusal causes.

    London, England

  4. Toodle-oo says:

    Actually , I think that Valerie’s last sentence deserves some serious consideration.

    When I was just a kid a long time ago and very aware and full of wonder at all things dead and alive in Bermuda like most kids were then I saw a skink in the wild . I think it was sometime in the mid 60′s . I’d never seen one before and have never seen one since. I didn’t have a clue what it was or it’s significance.
    I know better now , like I also know about the fossilised remains of the endemic Bermuda snail and the scores of shells from the West Indian Topshells that we used to see embedded in sand quarries and on the exposed South Shore cliff faces.

    Our environment has changed so drastically that I just can’t see the skinks making a comeback if any that re-breed are sent back here.

    The things that killed the skinks , the condos that destroyed the South Shore coastline, the bottles and tin cans so casually discarded , the cats ,the rats , they aren’t going anywhere .

    • Sandy Bottom says:

      The last sentence was ok, but it was overshadowed by the first three paragraphs of empty complaints.

  5. Valirie Marcia Akinstall says:

    @Sandy Bottom…

    An observation – read the article and posts your thoughts on the ARTICLE. That’s what news blogs are for, not trailing other comments.

    My comments were not a complaint, just a peculiar observation on a rare specie. If you don’t get it, be HONEST.

    I guess your comment is meant to camouflage your first backhanded remark.

    We will have to agree to disagree – and that’s not a compliant either!

    London, England

  6. Yvon Tripper says:

    Local lizards having trouble? Impose term limits on foreign lizards. Problem solved.