Mangrove trees in the Portland Bight Protected Area, Jamaica

Goat Islands Saved

In an unprecedented conservation success story, we joined forces with local partners in Jamaica to stop a proposed development in the country’s largest protected area in its tracks and save one of the world’s rarest lizards.

In 2014 the Jamaican government announced a $1.5 billion deal with the China Harbor Engineering Company to build a massive transshipment port in the heart of Portland Bight Protected Area. The move would have negated more than 25 years of conservation work to save the Jamaican Iguana—a species brought back from the brink of extinction—and imperiled myriad other endangered species that call Portland Bight home.

Crocodile in Jamaica

A young Amercian Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, among mangroves in a lagoon in Portland Bight Protected Area in Jamaica. Photo by: Robin Moore, GWC

Portland Bight Protected Area

Portland Bight harbors sea-grass beds and coral reefs—likely the largest nursery area for fish and shellfish on the island—as well as the largest intact mangrove forest in Jamaica, and one of three dry limestone forests, including the largest one in the Caribbean. The area is home to 20 globally threatened species and was declared a protected area in 1999.

Wild Facts
The Jamaican Iguana is one of the rarest lizards in the world
20 globally threatened species call Portland Bight Protected Area home
53 of the 271 resident plant species are found nowhere else on the planet

A Triumphant Campaign

Conservationists worked with passionate locals to create an international campaign to thwart the development – with a rallying cry of Save Goat Islands – and hone attention on two small but significant islands within Portland Bight that would be razed by the development. The islands were once home to the Jamaican Iguana and key to the recovery plans for the species. We helped to shine the spotlight on the proposed development in the media through the creation of two short documentaries and numerous news articles.


In an unprecedented victory for conservation, in 2016, the Jamaican government announced that the development would no longer go ahead in Portland Bight Protected Area. Thanks to years of tireless hard work by passionate Jamaicans and an international coalition of conservationists in partnership with GWC, the government agreed to move the proposed transshipment port to another, less ecological sensitive, area. The move was hailed as a triumph, thwarting ecological disaster in the heart of the country’s largest nature preserve. Portland Bight Protected Area will continue to stand as sanctuary to the Jamaican Iguana, as well as more than 20 other endemic and endangered species, and the dream of introducing a safe population of Jamaican Iguanas on predator-free Goat Islands has been kept alive.

“We are thrilled to congratulate our partners at JET on this incredible and unprecedented victory,” said Robin Moore, GWC’ Senior Director of Digital Content and Media.


“There is tremendous power in bringing together a group of partners that can sound the alarm worldwide when these kinds of development projects threaten our critical wildlands and wildlife, and we commend JET for leading the way in these impressive efforts.”


Jamaican Woman

Paulette Coley, a resident of Old Harbour Bay in Jamaica. Photo by: Robin Moore, GWC

In addition to protecting precious species and sensitive habitats, moving the transshipment ports also protects the heritage and livelihoods of 44 communities and 50,000 human inhabitants, including the highest concentration of fishers in Jamaica.  

Goat Islands: A Predator-Free Haven for the Critically Endangered Jamaican Iguana

Jamaican Iguana in Hands

The Jamaican Iguana, Cyclura collei, is a Critically Endangered species from the Hellshire Hills in Portland Bight Protected Area, Jamaica. Photo by: Robin Moore, GWC.

Hot on the heels of this victory, the government announced plans to establish Goat Islands as a wildlife sanctuary, paving the way for their establishment as a predator-free haven for the Jamaican Iguana.  The iguana once roamed these islands before disappearing in the 1940’s and was, for decades, feared extinct. Its rediscovery in 1990 in the Hellshire Hills on mainland Jamaica, where it was still threatened by invasive mongooses, catalyzed a recovery program led by conservation partners and the IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group. Today, nearly 200 individuals live in the wild, but the population requires intensive management. Re-establishing the iguana on mongoose-free Goat Islands would help ensure the long-term survival of the species.


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