Isla Monito and Its Unique Inhabitant

The Municipality of Mayaguez in Puerto Rico oversees the island of Monito, which is located approximately five kilometers from Mona and is situated in the Mona Passage. Looking at the massive rock that rises to sixty-five meters above the ocean, it is not surprising that the island is uninhabited and serves only to protect the wildlife and vegetation that have settled there. Isla Monita is an estimated three hundred and fifty meters wide and five hundred meters in length, covering an area of sixteen hectares.

Isla MonitoDue to the island being as small as what it is, there is not a large number of different plant species on Isla Monito. There are about thirty-seven species, with twenty-three families. The most dominant are Malvaceae, Cactaceae and Poaceae. There are no diverse landscapes to view and during the year, the only disturbance to the landscape and flora is made by nesting seabirds that flock to the island, such as the Brown Booby. With the birds nesting on the island, the plants are provided with necessary nutrition.

What makes this island so unique and vital to protect, is the presence of the endangered Monito Gecko. The Monito Gecko is a mere four centimeters in length and is either grey or dark brown in coloring, with a tan colored tail. It is able to climb cliffs and steep landscapes due to the suction cups on its feet and hunts spiders, crickets, ants and beetles at night, as they are nocturnal creatures. Monito Geckos can only be found on Isla Monito. No one was aware of their existance until 1974, when one un-hatched egg and an adult male were found by scientists. The egg was taken to a laboratory to hatch and then both geckos were released onto the island again.

In 1982 another survey was done on the island and only eighteen geckos were found, with scientist believing that the introduction of black rats centuries ago led to the decrease in the population. There are only two areas on the island where the geckos are now found and the island has therefore been classified as a critical area that is protected under the umbrella of the Endangered Species Act. It is hoped that by protecting the island and limiting human interference on the island, this species will be able to survive.