About the territory
Anguilla was first discovered by Amerindian tribes. Evidence of this discovery is as old as 3300 years. Christopher Columbus sailed past Anguilla in 1493 but did not land. Located in the Caribbean at latitude 18° 15’ North, longitude 63° 10’ West, Anguilla is the most northern of the Leeward Islands. Climate is sunny year-round, with average temperatures of 27°C. The wet season extends from June to November. Most of the islands rainfall of 900 – 1,000mm can fall within a few weeks. The hurricane season normally runs from June to November.
Anguilla consists of the main island which is around 26km in length by 5km in width and also a number of smaller island and cays. Overall the total land area of Anguilla is 91km2. It is only 8 km from the island of St Maarten. Anguilla is mainly flat, with the highest point 213 feet above sea level.
Anguilla and its cays are mostly rocky, with mainly limestone, corals and sandstone. Of significant ecological importance are Anguilla’s wetlands. These wetlands form myriad overlapping habitats for various bird species, which include endangered roseate terns, least terns and red-billed tropic-birds, a species of special concern. During hurricanes and periods of heavy rains, the ponds act as flood control areas.
The population was 13,572 in the last census in 2011. The main industries in Anguilla are tourism and fishing, where fishing employs around 20% of the whole population.
Kew’s online Herbarium database states that about 500 species of plants have been recorded on Anguilla, 280 of which are non-native and one of which is endemic (Kew UKOTS Online Herbarium). There are 25 species of amphibians and reptiles including eight introduced and three endemic lizard species (Edgar 2010). There are 38 species of breeding birds and a further 101 species occur as regularly non-breeding (Sanders 2006). The only native terrestrial mammals are five species of bat.
(Left) Endemic Rondeletia plant. Image: Calvin Samuel. (Right) Endemic Lesser Antillean iguana Iguana delicatisima. Image: Farah Muhkida
Policy and legislation
The National Environmental Management Strategy and Action Plan 2005-09 fulfilled Anguilla’s obligations under the St. George’s Declaration (SGD) of Principles for Environmental Sustainability in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), 2001. Under Principle 13 (Protect and Conserve Biological Diversity) Strategy 40 covers activities aimed at avoiding or minimising introductions and escapes of alien or living modified organisms with adverse impacts on other organisms, the environment or human health.
Anguilla has an Environment Charter signed jointly with the UK Government. Guiding Principle 7 is to safeguard and restore native species, habitats and landscape features, and control or eradicate invasive species. Under the associated commitment 2 the government of Anguilla will ensure the protection and restoration of key habitats, species and landscape features through legislation and appropriate management structures and mechanisms, including a protected area policy, and attempt the control and eradication of invasive species. Implementation progress was reviewed in 2007, 2010 and 2016, read the 2016 review report (external link).
The Anguilla Invasive Species Strategy highlights the importance of prevention and outlines the required biosecurity actions with agency responsibilities, including Department of Environment, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health Protection, Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources and Anguilla National Trust. The Invasive Species Strategy was being drafted in 2017 with expectations of finalising it in 2018 but work had to stop due to staff movements, and then to changes in priorities post-hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2018.
There are several pieces of legislation that cover some aspects of biosecurity, but there is a need for stronger legislation. Legislation is primarily concerned with animal and plant health, and invasive species are not mentioned explicitly. Powers exist with relation to the prevention of the spread of diseases for animals and plants (powers of inspection, entry, search, restriction of movement, seizure and destruction). Diseased imported plant and animals can be seized. No release of flora and fauna into marine parks is allowed, and monkeys may not be imported. Internal biosecurity is weak: offshore islands are not explicitly mentioned in legislation.
Invasive species and biosecurity
A total of 216 non-native species (marine and terrestrial) was recorded for Anguilla by the RSPB Stocktake (Churchyard et al 2014).
Problems with invasive non-native species
While there are many non-native species very few of these are invasive to Anguilla. Some species that cause problems, are cats (Felis cattus), dogs (Canis familiaris), goats (Capra hircus) and rats (Rattus spp.). These species affect the populations of native reptiles as they compete for food, through predation and flattening their habitat. (Varham, 2006). The Pink Hibiscus Mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus) has been introduced to Anguilla and is known to be a pest on a wide range of ornamental and crop species. Cuban Tree Frogs (Osteopilus septentrionalis) have been reported since the 1980s and numbers have increased significantly in recent years. Elsewhere, they are regarded as a voracious predators and competitors of other amphibians and reptiles.
In the marine environment, Anguilla is being impacted by the spread of invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans), predatory fish which pose a threat to both commercial fisheries and coral reef fish communities.
Priority invasive non-native species and actions
In 2012, Dog Island was subject of a successful rodent eradication operation, led by the Anguilla National Trust (ANT). Dog Island is one of the most important seabird islands in the Caribbean in terms of number of breeding species and home to Anguilla’s largest seabird breeding colonies, with 10 breeding seabird species, including over 135,000 pairs of sooty terns Onychoprion fuscatus. This site is globally important for populations of brown boobies Sula dactylatra and red-billed tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus and regionally important for magnificent frigatebirds Fregata magnificens, masked boobies Sula dactylatra, laughing gulls Leucophaeus atricilla, and sooty terns Onychoprion fuscatus. Also present are five species of native terrestrial reptile: ground lizard Ameiva plei, Tree lizard Anolis gingivinus, Little dwarf gecko Sphaerodactylus parvus, Island dwarf gecko S. sputator, and slippery back Mabouya sp.
In 2018, rats were also eradicated from Prickly Pear Cays, identified as globally important and a key biodiversity area due to their nesting sea birds, endangered and critically endangered nesting sea turtles. Subsequently, the endemic Lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatisima), has been reintroduced from mainland Anguilla to Prickly Pear Cays for conservation purposes.
A prioritization workshop for existing, established invasive species was held in Anguilla in March 2020. Nine established invasive non-native species were identified for which complete eradication was considered highly feasible. The highest feasibility of eradication was for Brazilian jasmine (Jasminum fluminense) a woody vine frequently planted within hotel landscapes that could be relatively easily eradicated from the limited populations in which it is currently found on Anguilla. Other species with high eradication feasibility included the vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops), house sparrow (Passer domesticus) and diamond-back moth (Plutella xylostella) (among others).
In terms of preventing spread to other islands within the territory, the number one threat was from green iguana (Iguana iguana) to Prickly Pear Cays, which was considered very likely to arrive and likely to establish in the next ten years. If it did, the impact on native species could be catastrophic, including the endemic Lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatisima), which was recently reintroduced from mainland Anguilla to Prickly Pear Cays for conservation purposes. Other threats were grouped into the top 25, 40 and 75 species by island combinations, with priorities including preventing rodents and some ant species spreading to Prickly Pear, Dog, Scrub and Sombrero Island, as well as false puncture-vine (Tribulus cistoides) which could dramatically alter habitats.
Biosecurity enhancements, awareness raising, early detection and rapid response procedures are needed in order to reduce the risk from these threats. Prickly Pear and Dog Islands were highlighted as particularly important islands on which to focus these activities.
Read full details of the prioritization workshop.
In 2017 a biosecurity gap analysis (PDF) was completed. Generally biosecurity capacity is low. Risk analysis is done on an ad-hoc basis. Biosecurity border operations are carried out by customs officers, and awareness training has been given. To address the issue of imported ornamental plant material, gardeners and horticulturalists are engaged post-border to compensate for the lack of border controls.
Capacity is weakest in the area of Early Warning and Rapid Response, with no surveillance done. The Anguilla Invasive Species Strategy highlights the importance of prevention and outlines the required biosecurity actions with agency responsibilities. It has been endorsed by government but not yet been fully implemented. Legislation is weak, and offshore islands are not covered. There is an overall lack of training and resources.
There are no dedicated biosecurity facilities, large scale shipments (containers) with plants and other products are delivered directly to the importers property or site. The container is then opened in the presence of an Agricultural officer and a custom agent. It’s important to note that many containers with plants are destined for hotels and the garden shops/nurseries; since the containers are opened on site, the Department of Environment has taken the initiative to engage the hotel gardeners/horticulturalist in biosecurity training. This is especially necessary since there is not adequate border security.
An effort is made to keep the public aware of invasive species and their impacts, and the public is therefore adequately informed through literature and media blitz, but there is still a lot of work needed to heighten awareness of publics since the initiatives are not continuous. Compliance is not monitored.
In 2018 a pathway analysis (PDF) was completed. Anguilla has regular direct flight connections only within the Caribbean region. Ferry services run between Anguilla and St Maarten/Martin, with several services running daily. Passenger arrival in 2016 totalled 25,817, of which 17,501 were stay-over tourists and 8,975 day–trippers on cruise ships. Sea is main mode of entry (89.8%) and the USA is the main “source market” of tourists.
There is one port of entry for yachts, Road Bay; no information was found for the number of yachts visiting Anguilla each year. Cruise ships dock at two ports of entry: Road Bay and Blowing Point.
Cargo arrives by both sea and air on a weekly basis; main ports of departure are USA, St. Maarten/St. Martin; US Virgin Islands and Dominica. Containers also arrive from Japan via USA.
Horizon scanning was carried out in 2019, identifying a total of 24 new invasive species of concern which have the potential to arrive within the next 5 – 10 years; read a report on the horizon scanning (PDF).
Projects include monitoring and invasive species management as part of the Dog Island Restoration Project, and Lesser Antillean Iguana Recovery Programme, led by the Anguilla National Trust.
Drawing on commitments made under the Environment Charter, Overseas Territories Environment Programme (OTEP), 11 OTEP funded projects were delivered in total between 2004 and 2012 (external link).
Anguilla has received a number of Darwin Initiative funded projects, listed below. For more information read the project reports (external link):
- Upgrade and revision of reef survey resource (DPLUS004)
- Seed conservation in the Caribbean UKOTs (DPLUS006)
- Using seabirds to inform Caribbean marine planning (DPLUS007)
- Promoting the creation and appropriate management of protected areas in Anguilla and the Cayman Islands (DPLUS013)
- Anguilla National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) - towards a green economy (DPLUS022)
- Mapping Anguilla’s ‘Blue Belt’ Ecosystem Services (DPLUS045)
- Pioneering a New Model of Marine Park Management in Anguilla (DPLUS060)
- Climate change adaptation in the fisheries of Anguilla and Montserrat (DPLUS066)
- Regional collaboration to achieve sustainable Caribbean fisheries management (DPLUS067)
- Future-proofing endangered species conservation in Anguilla (DPLUS086)
- Improving coastal ecosystem resilience to climate change in Anguilla (DPLUS091)
- Regional-scale marine conservation through multi-territory tracking of frigatebirds (DPLUS097)
- Restoring and safeguarding wetlands of the Caribbean UKOTs (DPLUS098)
The project ‘Tackling invasive non-native species in the UK Overseas Territories’ was implemented between 2016 and 2020 to strengthen biosecurity in the OTs, funded by the UK government Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). Anguilla benefitted from a number of activities to strengthen its biosecurity, including: pathway analysis, horizon scanning, pathway action planning, prioritisation of existing invasive species, access to online learning, and technical support. Read further details.
Anguilla was involved in the CSSF project ‘Natural Capital in the Caribbean and South Atlantic Overseas Territories’ from 2016 to 2019, and delivered to four OTs in the Caribbean by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). The programme of work involves mapping and valuing the participating OTs natural capital assets through integrating ecological data, satellite data, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and economic assessments. Read project details and reports (external link).
Information for visitors
Before travelling please ensure all items are clean, free from organic materials such as mud, faeces, seeds and invertebrates:
- Check your footwear, outdoor clothing and day packs to make sure they are clean and free from weed seeds, mud, invertebrates and plant material. If possible we recommend that you travel with new outdoor clothing and equipment. Shake out or vacuum all the compartments and pockets before you pack.
- If you have been camping, check that your tent and other equipment is clean, dry and free of dirt and invertebrates such as ants and spiders. Shake it out before you pack it up for travel and ensure no soil remains on tent pegs.
- If you have been hiking, visiting a wilderness area, farm or zoo, make sure your footwear and clothes are clean and free from seeds, mud and faeces. Check boot soles for mud between the treads, Velcro fastenings for seeds and plant material, and shake out or vacuum pockets to remove any dirt and plant material.
- If you are carrying golf, fishing or other sports and outdoor equipment with you, make sure they are clean, dry and free from dirt and any live creatures.
Department of the Environment
Calvin W. Lake Commercial Building,
Calvin Washington Lake Road,
P O Box 60
AI-2640 – Anguilla,
Tel: +1 264-497-0217
Barnsley, S., Cary, E., Pienkowski, M. and Wensink, C.(Eds) (2016). Review of performance by 2016 of UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies in implementing the 2001 Environment Charters or their equivalents and moving towards the Aichi Targets and Sustainable Development Targets. UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum, April 2016.
Churchyard, T., Eaton, M., Hall, J., Millett, J., Farr, A., Cuthbert, R. and Stringer, C. (2014). The UK’s wildlife overseas: a stocktake of nature in our Overseas Territories. Sandy, UK: RSPB.
Edgar, P. (2010). The Amphibians and reptiles of the UK Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies and Sovereign Base Areas: Species Inventory and Overview of Conservation and Research Priorities. Bournemouth, UK: Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.
Proctor, D. and Fleming, L. V., eds. (1999). Biodiversity: the UK Overseas Territories. Peterborough, UK: JNCC.
Sanders, S. M., ed. (2006). Important Bird Areas in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories. Sandy, UK: RSPB.
Varnham, K. (2006). Non-native species in UK Overseas Territories: a review. Peterborough, UK: JNCC Report No. 372.
- Anguilla National Trust
- Government of Anguilla Department of Environment
- JNCC – Invasive species in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies
- Kew RBG – UKOTS Online Herbarium
- RSPB – UKOTs Wildlife Stocktake 2014 (external link)
- Virtual tours of the UKOTs, by the UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum