AT LEAST 11 animal species have already become extinct in Jamaica and 14 others, plus more than 200 of Jamaica's plant endemic species, may be heading that way, says a recent report on Jamaica's environment.
According to the report, "Jamaica's Environment 2001 - environment statistics and the state of the environment report," the 200 plant and 14 animal species found only in Jamaica, have been classified as critically imperilled. This means that extinction may be in the immediate future, or especially vulnerable to extinction, meaning that they are facing a high risk of dying out in the wild in the medium term future.
The report was compiled by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN).
Among those already extinct are the West Indian monk seal, the Jamaican rice rat, two species of bats, three birds, the giant yellow galliwasp (a lizard) and the black racer (a snake).
The document outlined that these species, among them the Jamaican Coney and Iguana, are being threatened by "the reduction of many eco-systems due to urban growth, growth of infrastructure, industrial expansion (and) agricultural practices, such as large areas with a single crop, air, water, and soil pollution, deforestation and overharvesting (where too may members of a species are taken without reproduction or replacement taking place)."
The species are also being threatened by the deliberate, or accidental introduction of foreign species, the report added.
It also outlined the concerns of environmentalists that there is not enough baseline information available on several of these animals and plants. The document said that the status for majority of Jamaica's animals and plants has not been "adequately" determined and that there is a risk that a number of organisms may disappear before their situation is noted.
"It is difficult to estimate animal populations, as they may remain hidden from human observation. However, populations that are at risk must be counted in order for them to be protected," the document said.
Biodiversity refers to a specific area's range of genetic differences, species differences and ecosystem differences.
Jamaica's five major centres of natural biodiversity are the Cockpit country, Black River Morass, Blue and John Crow Mountains, Portland Bright and the Hellshire Hills and the coral reefs and marine co-systems along Jamaica's coastlines.