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Trinidad and Tobago: Flora and fauna

The rainforests of the Northern Range running along the north coast and the wetlands on the east and west coast are more extensive, more dense and display a greater diversity of fauna and flora than any other ecosystems in the Caribbean. The Forestry Division (Long Circular Rd, St James, Port of Spain, T6224521) information on guided tours and hikes) has designated many parts of Trinidad and Tobago as national parks, wildlife reserves and protected areas. On Trinidad, the national parks are the Caroni and Nariva Swamps, Matura and Chaguaramas.

Many flowering trees can be seen on the islands: pink and yellow poui, frangipani, cassia, pride of India, immortelle, flamboyant, jacaranda. Among the many types of flower are hibiscus, poinsettia, chaconia (wild poinsettia – the national flower), ixora, bougainvillea, orchid, ginger lily and heliconia. The Horticultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago (PO Box 252) has its office on Lady Chancellor Road, Port of Spain, T6226423.

The islands are home to 60 types of bat, and other mammals include the Trinidad capuchin and red howler monkeys, brown forest brocket (deer), collared peccary (quenk), manicou (opossum), agouti, rare ocelot and armadillo. A small group of manatees is being protected in a reserve in the Nariva Swamp. Other reptiles include iguanas and 47 species of snakes, of which few are poisonous: the fer-de-lance (locally, mapipire), bushmaster and two coral snakes. The variety of fauna on Tobago is larger than on other similar-sized islands because of its one-time attachment to South America. It is home to 210 different bird species, 123 different butterfly species, 16 types of lizards, 14 kinds of frogs, 24 species of snakes (all of them harmless), and it has some spectacled caymans at Hillsborough Dam.

Trinidad and Tobago together have more species of birds than any other Caribbean island, although the variety is South American, not West Indian. No species is endemic, but Tobago has 13 species of breeding birds not found on Trinidad. Some estimates say that there are 433 species of bird, including 41 hummingbirds, parrots, macaws, the rare red-breasted blackbird, the nightingale-thrush and the mot mot. There are also 622 recorded species of butterfly. The most accessible birdwatching sites are the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, the Asa Wright Centre, the Caurita Plantation and the Wild Fowl Trust.