Plant species endemic to the TCI (some of which are Critcally Engangered – CR - or Endangered - EN) are the National Plant, Turks and Caicos heather Limonium bahamense (EN), Caroline’s pink flower Stenandrium carolinae (CR), Caicos Encyclia orchid Encyclia caicensis (EN), Britton’s buttonbush Spermacoce brittonii, Capillary buttonbush Spermacoce capillaris (EN), silvery silverbush Argythamnia argentea (EN), peppergrass Lepidium filicaule (EN), and North Caicos milkweed vine Metastelma stipitatum. In addition, the plant subspecies Evolvulus bahamense arbuscula is potentially endemic to the TCI. A further 50 plant species are restricted to TCI, the Bahamas archipelago and Cuba.

Turks & Caicos heather, the national plant found only in TCI. Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Above: Turks & Caicos heather, the national plant found only in TCI. Below: Another characteristic plant, silver buttonwod, which forms distinctively coloured stands on the flats on the south side of the Caicos Islands. Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Silver buttonwood. Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Endemic vertebrate species include: 13 invertebrate species or subspecies, e.g. Drury’s hairstreak butterfly Strymon acis leucosticha; 9 reptile species, e.g. the Caicos barking gecko Aristelliger hechti and the Caicos pygmy boa Tropidophis greenwayi, the smallest boa in the world, which can fit on to the palm of your hand; and the rock iguana Cyclura carinata carinata. There are two endemic bird subspecies, the thick-billed vireo Vireo crassirostris stalagmium, Greater Antillean bullfinch Loxigilla violacea ofella, as well as several bird species endemic to TCI and the Bahamas or TCI and Cuba.

Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Above: Endemic Caicos barking gecko Aristelliger hechti, rediscovered by Bryan Naqqi Manco in a UKOTCF-organised study, after being thought extinct. Below: Endemic Caicos pygmy boa Tropidophis greenwayi, the smallest constrictor snake in the world.

Endemic Caicos pygmy boa, the smallest constrictor snake in the world. Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

The Islands are an important breeding, stopover or wintering area for at least 110 bird species. For example, the Turks and Caicos Banks smaller cays support over 100,000 breeding seabirds, and qualify as Important Bird Areas and Ramsar Sites. Most are Crown Land, and variously designated at different levels of protection. Big Sand Cay is a statutory sanctuary, and is particularly important for sooty tern Sterna fuscata. Despite its protected status, it is subject to disturbance, as resources are not available for enforcement in this remote area. At the request of TCI Government, UKOTCF produced an information leaflet about this Cay, explaining the interest and advising how to minimise the impact of any visit.

Stilt sandpipers at Salt Cay; the salt-pans here and at Grand Turk and South Caicos support internationally important numbers migrating from Canadian breeding grounds to South America. Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Above: A migrant shorebird: stilt sandpipers at Salt Cay; the salt-pans here and at Grand Turk and South Caicos support internationally important numbers migrating from Canadian breeding grounds to South America. Below: A resident shorebird: Wilson's plover incubating remaining eggs, with newly hatched chick. Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

Wilsons plover incubating remaining eggs, with newly hatched chick.  Copyright: Dr Mike Pienkowski

The Columbus Passage off-shore is a major migratory pathway for many pelagic species including humpback whales Megaptera novaeangliae, Bluefin tuna Thunnus thynnus, billfish, sharks, rays, etc

60 species of coral are found in TCI waters. Hard coral varieties include the critically endangered staghorn Acropora cervicornis, elkhorn Acropora palmata, pillar, star, and brain corals. Sea fans, sea whips, and sea plumes number among the soft coral varieties.

Underwater in TCI: Copyright Turks and Caicos Reef Fund 

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