A guide to wildlife in Jamaica

Jamaican boa, photo by StuBez on Flickr

Like other Caribbean islands, Jamaica is a tropical paradise where countless species of plants and animal thrive. For an amateur naturalist, or for someone who likes spending their time watching nature documentaries, Jamaica has infinitely more to offer than beaches, nightlife and city attractions. There are several wildlife refuges in Jamaica where you can see rare or elusive species, but even a walk in the wild can be an opportunity to come face to face with a few interesting critters. Here is a guide to wildlife in Jamaica for those who want to meet a few of the animals who roam this beautiful island.

Jamaican Alligator

Jamaican corcodile, photo bu alfredmoya on Flickr

The Jamaican alligator is actually a type of crocodile, not alligator, and it dwells in Jamaica’s marshes and mangrove swamps. The Jamaican crocodiles are of the American crocodile species, the most widespread of the four types of crocodiles in the America. Since these huge lizards can reach truly impressive sizes (crocodiles can grow to as much as six meters), these are not the kind of animals that you want to encounter during a walk. However, if you book a professional tour that can take the necessary safety precautions, you can see these ‘Jamaican alligators’ in several interesting places in Jamaica.

Sea turtles

Hawksbill turtle, photo by avlxyz on Flickr

Jamaica’s beaches are often habitats for sea turtles who come to lay their eggs. If you are in Jamaica during the egg laying season, you can contact a wildlife refuge or a turtle conservation programme and arrange a tour. Green Turtle, Hawksbill and Logger-head turtles are found in the waters surrounding Jamaica. During scuba diving or sailing trips, you might get lucky and see a few turtles swimming alongside you.

Jamaican Hutia

The Jamaican Hutia, also known as the Jamaican coney, is one of the endemic species in Jamaica. This cute little furry creature looks similar to a guinea pig, but its numbers are dwindling because it is often hunted for food. The hutia lives in rocky and forested area, and while its habitats are not difficult to find, the hutia is nocturnal and you won’t find it during the day. If you travel to the Blue Mountains, you might catch a glimpse of the hutia at night. Like other endemic species, the Jamaican Hutia is endangered.

Jamaican Boa

Another of Jamaican’s fascinating endemic species that must be included in any wildlife guide to Jamaica is the Jamaican boa. The boa, like other snakes in Jamaica, are very rare, and it takes a lot of luck to see one, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Also called yellowsnake, the boa is part of wildlife conservation breeding programmes that might one day help the boa population spread around the island once again.

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