St. Lucia
Animals of the
Rain Forest

The most colorful is the
endangered St. Lucian parrot

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Animals of the St. Lucia Rain Forest

Of all the animals inhabiting St. Lucia 's amazingly varied rain forest, one of the most startling is the green iguana, which grows up to six feet long. The tail, about two-thirds of that length, is a prized delicacy, which accounts for its relative scarcity.

  More common are the three species of anoles, tree lizards called "zandoli" on St. Lucia . Anoles are interesting because of the males' elaborate display, which involves a lot of head bobbing and push-ups, sort of like a boxer in training.

A local myth says anyone touching an anole will get white blotches on the skin where they touched it. Not true. The worst anoles can do is give you a slight harmless nip.

The equally innocuous gecko also has a bad reputation. The gecko is easy to distinguish from an anole by its eyes, which are covered by a transparent membrane instead of eyelids, an adaptation for night vision. Geckos are also noted jettisoning their tails, leaving them wriggling in the paws of a confounded enemy. The tails do grow back, but not as long as the originals.

Caribs called geckos "Mabouia," evil spirits. According to legend, these fast-retreating animals would latch themselves so tightly to a person's skin that it required a hot iron to kill the animal and remove it. The story is absurd.

The belief pparently comes from the gecko's ability to cling to the smallest and smoothest object, even glass. It grips with the flap-like scales on the undersides of its toes.

The fer-de-lance (Bothrops caribbaeus Garman) is a pit viper of some importance (to avoid), so a few extra words about it. Any time a local talks about serpents, he's talking about fer-de-lances.

Although other snakes live on the island, only the fer-de-lance is called a "serpent," with all the Old Testament connotations of evil. The snakes are nocturnal, so it's possible to see one on the road near twilight after a heavy rain.

 The island's boa constrictor (Constrictor constrictor orophias) grows from seven to 10 feet long. Its diet consists mainly of rats and birds. To keep down the rodent population, some St. Lucian farmers have even introduced them to their property.

Undoubtedly the most colorful creature is the St. Lucian parrot, the national bird, once hunted for its both meat and the international pet market.

The blue-green parrots are most active in morning and evening. Mating for life, the female lays only two eggs a year. They nest in the tops of the tall gommier trees and typically travel in family groups of twos and threes.

Known locally as the "jacquot," there may have been as many as a million of the parrots when the first Europeans arrived. However, some suggest that seems like an awful lot of parrots on this one tiny island.

In 1990, there were only about 200 birds in the wild. Today, that number has increased significantly but is still under a thousand.

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