Colorful birds, insects, fish and reptiles populate the island, but some have been endangered by the introduction of non native species which also thrive in the island’s tropical climate. The British introduced pigs and mongoose during the Colonial Period and these non-native animals have had a serious impact on the survival of some Jamaican native animals.
The Swallow Tail Hummingbird
Although there are about 320 species of hummingbird living on the island of Jamaica, the swallow tail or Doctor hummingbird is a favorite. In fact the swallowtail hummingbird is the national bird of the island nation. The Doctor bird has the beautiful iridescent feathers common to hummingbirds and two long, thin, whip like feathers that extend from its tail. This variety of hummingbird is found nowhere else in the world and it is a favorite subject of island folklore.
The Swallow Tail Butterfly
Certainly swallow tail species seem to be popular in Jamaica, but this butterfly with its wing span of almost 6 inches across, is one of the largest butterflies in the Western Hemisphere. Its bright yellow and black coloration makes it easy to spot. It was first documented by British colonists in the 18th century.
The Jamaican Fruit Bat
Staying with winged creatures, there are 21 species of 6 different bat families represented on the island of Jamaica. Bats are nocturnal mammals and fruit bats are invaluable in pollinating trees and flowers. Most bats feed on either fruit or insects and they are usually harmless to people.
The West Indies Manatee
The manatee is an aquatic mammal which is found in the waters of the West Indies and on the coast of Florida. There are only three species of manatee and all are considered endangered. The manatee is generally a marine animal but can also be found in large bodies of fresh water. It is found in the coastal waters of Jamaica and has been on the country’s endangered list since 1971.
The Jamaican Crocodile
The Jamaican crocodile is found in the rivers and wetlands of the country and is not a salt water croc. Males can reach lengths of 16 ft and weights of over 1000 pounds. Crocodiles in Jamaica are an endangered species from both hunting and loss of habitat. The crocodile appears on the Jamaican coat of arms and is important to folklore in the country.
There are hundreds of different species of animals in Jamaica, although there are only two species of rodent and two types of snake, both non venomous. Wetland boat tours offer a wonderful look at the indigenous flora and fauna much of which can be seen only in Jamaica.