Wildlife in Jamaica

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean and is home to more endemic species than any other Caribbean island.

Due to deforestation, hunting and the introduction of non-native species many are sadly threatened, however lots of the fragile ecosystems have now been classified as protected areas. From giant swallowtail butterflies to magnificent manatees, the unique wildlife in Jamaica is not to be missed.

Must-see animals

There are few mammals in Jamaica aside from common farmyard friends, and the only native land mammal left in the wild is the endangered Jamaican coney.

This secretive and nocturnal animal, resembling a large guinea pig, can be found in the Blue Mountains and the Hellshire Hills, where the eroded limestone provides protective underground tunnels and crevices.

You’ll find hoards of Indian mongooses across the island which were introduced almost 150 years ago to control the black rat population, which are also threatening the vulnerable coney.

While roaming the national parks you may spot a wild pig or two roaming more remote areas and the caves of Cockpit Country Park are home to many of the islands 23 species of bats, including the Jamaican Flower Bat and Jamaican Fig-eating Bat.

Reptiles and amphibians

Jamaica boasts 27 endemic reptile species and 21 endemic amphibian species, including one of the rarest lizards in the world, the Jamaican Iguana.

Threatened by habitat destruction and again, the introduction of the Indian mongoose at the beginning of the 19th century, the impressive land lizard can be found in the Hellshire Hills of the Portland Bight Protected Area, a short drive from Kingston.

One of the most impressive reptiles is the endangered American crocodile, which can be found in the mangroves and marshy waters in the south of the island.

As well as more than a dozen different frogs and countless geckos with their distinctive sharp cries, a plethora of non-venomous snakes reside on the island. They include the native Jamaican Boa, which feeds mainly on rats and is not considered a threat to humans

Bird watching

Jamaica is a bird watcher’s paradise and one of the best islands in the Caribbean to do some spotting. Of the 30 endemic species the national bird – the Red-billed Streamertail – can be found in almost every flower-filled garden.

Whereas the rare Jamaican Blackbird, which feeds exclusively on creatures living inside bromliads, may require more patience to spot. In total, over 305 species have been recorded across the island including large numbers of winter visitors from North America, transients and vagrants depending on the season.

The best times for birdwatching are sunrise and sunset and you’ll find most of the endemic species spread out throughout the island’s forests. Birdwatching tours are readily available and with a talented guide and reasonable luck you’ll be able to tick most of the native species off your list in a week.

For an unforgettable experience visit the Rockland Bird Sanctuary and feed endemic birds nectar from a bottle as they perch on your finger.

Marine life

The transparent waters around the coast of the island are home to more than 260 species of reef fish. They range from brightly coloured princess parrotfish and fairy basslets found in the beautiful coral to giant eagle rays, tuna, sea turtles and nurse sharks in the deeper water.

Along the south coast visitors are invited to canoe down the tranquil river network and get up close to the endearing West Indian Manatee, which is threatened with extinction. Living for up to 60 years and weighing around one ton, these gentle giants can grow up to five metres long.

Dolphins are also often spotted around the coast, swimming and playing alongside tour boats.

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