Little Tobago Island

Year of compilation: 2007

Site description
Little Tobago Island is a small island about 2 km off the coast at Speyside in north-east Tobago. It is approximately 113 ha in area and has a maximum elevation of about 140m. There is no permanent habitation on the island but it is regularly visited by day visitors to view the tropicbirds and marine life surrounding the island.

Key biodiversity
The Island serves as an important breeding site for Audubon’s Shearwater, Red-billed Tropicbird and Brown Noddies. Other breeding species include Brown Booby, Bridled Tern, Sooty Tern and Laughing Gull. The island supports small populations of the biome restricted species Rufous-vented Chachalaca and Copper-rumped Hummingbird.

Non-bird biodiversity: Little Tobago supports populations of three replitles with limited distributions. The Ocellated Gecko Gonatodes ocellatus are common in the stands of Coccothrinax and Anthurium. This species is endemic to Tobago and Little Tobago (Murphy 1997). The subspecies of snake Mastigodryas boddaerti, M.d. dunni has a similar distribution. The subspecies of Bachia heteropa, B.h. alleni is limited to Tobago, Little Tobago, Grenada and the Grenadines. One endemic plant Pilea tobagensis has been collected on Little Tobago.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Guides to the island come from the local community and Little Tobago receives moderately good protection from hunters. The major threats include the potential introduction of predators to the island and the ever-present threat of hurricanes.

Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
In the mid 1960s extensive studies and population estimates were conducted on the birds of Little Tobago. Since then however, observations have been sporadic. A recent survey of the islands vertebrate fauna, including small mammal trapping, was conducted by the University of the West Indies. No mammals were detected.

Protected areas
Little Tobago has been protected as a game sanctuary since 1928. It is currently managed by the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment of the Tobago House of Assembly. Access is restricted without authorised tour operators.

Habitat and land use
Little Tobago Island is almost completely forested. It represents the only large remnant of deciduous seasonal forest which was once found throughout the lower elevations of Tobago. The forest is of secondary origin as the island was once cultivated. However by 1944 the vegetation had already appeared to have reached a climax (Beard 1944). Dominant tree species include the naked Indian tree Bursera simaruba and the palm Coccothrinax barbadensis. Stands of Royal Palm Roystonea oleracea occur. The aroid Anthurium hookeri is abundant as a ground flora and as an epiphyte. Along exposed coasts the canopy becomes progressively lower and windswept with the cacti Cephalocereus moritziannus, Cactus broadwayi and the succulent Batis maritime occurring.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Little Tobago Island. Downloaded from on 07/03/2021.