Flora & Fauna of Tobago

The firefly - Lampyridae

On a night with a new moon or cloudy sky - take a flashlight or car headlights and flash onto the rainforest. The fireflies respond by flashing back in their thousands from the grass to the higher reaches of the tree canopy. This is a favourite activity on the rainforest roads for children and big children.
bioluminescent firefly
The firefly, belonging to the family Lampyridae, is one of a number of bioluminescent insects capable of producing a chemically created, cold light. Both males and females can generate the light, which is believed to attract them to each other. The light is produced when two chemical substances created by the firefly, luciferin and luciferase, come into contact with oxygen.

The agouti

The 'snooty' agouti is found the the rainforest throughout Tobago, unfortunately they are hunted for 'bush meat'. This one was seen ten minutes from Castara, on the old road out of Castara towards Scarborough.
It is a rodent of the genera Dasyprocta and Myoprocta, of the family Dasyproctidae. The agouti is found in the rainforested regions of Tobago in the West Indies. It is short eared, has practically no tail, and has a soft coat of golden-brown or reddish hair, sometimes speckled. Dasyprocta are large rabbit-sized; Myoprocta are somewhat smaller. At first glance the agouti resembles the guinea pig, but it has slender, comparatively long legs and can run swiftly. The agouti lives in an underground den, from which it emerges usually at night. It feeds on green leaves, roots, and fallen fruit. Esteemed for its flesh and hated in farming areas because of its destructiveness, the agouti is hunted and killed in great numbers. The agouti reproduces rapidly, however; the female usually has two litters of two to four young each year. Born open-eyed and fully furred, the young agouti is ready to look after itself immediately.

The iguana - iguana iguana

The iguana was seen lumbering along the road to Englishman's Bay. It was over a meter (four feet) long and was not it its natural element on the road. The common iguana, a tree-living species found along the coast of Castara, is bright green with a crest of spines from the neck to the striped tail. Its tail accounts for two thirds of its length. They can be seen eating insects in the trees, look after them, they are eating the bugs you don't like. These lizards are found in the trees around Castara.
iguana iguana young iguana iguana
These animals are mainly arboreal and can be found in large trees with dense canopies, especially in the humid areas of Tobago. They seem to prefer branches near or overhanging water, so if threatened, may leap to the ground or dive into water, escaping danger. Their diet consists of fruit, vegetables, and some flowers. If coming across a nest of baby mice or baby birds, these also may be consumed. When young, iguanas will also eat insects. In defence: Iguanas have small sharp teeth which may be used to help tear apart large leaves, making them easier to swallow. These teeth also can be used for biting their enemies, causing a serious flesh wound (in animal or human). Iguanas tails are used as a rudder when swimming under water; the front and back legs are pressed against their body making them streamline. Like lizards - if any enemy grabs an iguana by the tail, the tail can be broken off at will, wiggling around which distracts the enemy, while the iguana runs to safety. The tail will regenerate, but will never be as nice as the original tail.

As a defence, the tail is used as a whip, which is powerful enough to break a small dogs leg! Iguanas nails are long and sharp, aiding them in climbing. These nails can also be used in defence by tearing at an enemy.

Leaf-Cutter Ant - atta cephalote

As you might expect, many leaf-cutting ants cut the leaves of trees. Here, workers of one type of leaf-cutting ant called Atta cephalotes cut the leaf of a rainforest tree. Workers of different size do different jobs. While the larger workers cut the leaf, the smaller workers guard them against attack. As in all ants, the workers are all female. When the larger worker finishes cutting a leaf fragment, smaller workers climb onto the leaf fragment to guard the larger worker. Leaf-cutting ants can carry loads weighing up to twelve times their own weight. Usually, they carry loads only two to four times their own weight.
leaf-cutter ants - atta cephalote.
Leaf-cutters often cut leaves fifty to one hundred meters away from their nest. Each round-trip to a tree may take an ant several hours. Back at the nest, the ants do not eat the leaf fragments. Instead, smaller workers cut the leaves into small pieces and clean it and use it as fertiliser for growing a fungus that they use for food. Each colony of Atta cephalotes has one mother queen who can live more than fifteen years. All the workers are her daughters. Colonies of atta cephalotes can grow to have ten million workers, all sisters. Here an atta cephalotes queen sits on her fungus garden, surrounded by her daughters. Leaf-cutting ants are important in the forests as they are helpful to plants, and they fertilise the soil with all the vegetation they carry down into their nests.

Orange-winged parrots

In the darkness of the forest, their feathers appear dull and the parrots blend into their leafy world. But when the sunlight shines on their feathers, they display a brilliant pallet of greens and blue. In the early morning and evening the parrots search the treetops for food, which includes a wide variety of fruits and seeds. The birds have a range of calls, from soft and liquid to harsh and strident. You'll hear and see these as they fly out of the rainforest canopy.
orange-winged parrot.
Early in the year, birds aged four years or more, pair up with a mate they keep for life. They search for a nest hole high up in an old tree. Between March and June have their young. Nothing is added to the nest and the female lays one to three eggs on the rotten wood base and incubates them for around 28 days. The chicks are bald, blind and totally dependent on their parents for protection, warmth and food. The parents regurgitate partially digested food for their young until, after about 80 days, they join the adults in the forest.


Those that fly along the beach at evening and night time are mammals that belong to the order chiroptera. They are 'warm-blooded', have bodies covered with fur, and nurse their young (pups) with milk.
bats - chiroptera.
Bats are responsible for controlling the pest insect populations like the mosquitos. One insect-eating bat can catch 500-1000 insects in one hour - enjoy!

The Tobagonian tropical rainforest could not survive without bats as a substantial amount of the pollination is carried out by bats. Many plants must be pollinated by bats to produce fruit. The only way some plants have of dispersing seeds is through bats. Bats have excellent night vision. Fruit bats use their eyesight and sense of smell to find fruits and flowers. Bats that use echolocation usually have large ears and leaf-shaped flaps of skin on their noses. This helps them direct the high frequency sounds they make. Bats all over the world are at risk because people do not understand how valuable they are. Conservationists are working to protect bat habitats and to teach people how necessary these animals are for a healthy ecosystem.

They rest during the day under the fronds of the palm trees on the beach. DO NOT DISTURB.

Manicou Crabs

Manicou Crabs.
National Geographic, July 1999 Caribbean Crabs With a Newly Discovered Diet - Snakes. Many crabs are but humble scavengers. However, manicou crabs on the island of Tobago (in a river near Castara) have a taste for live prey, such as this cloudy slug-eating snake, nearly two feet (58cm) long. 'They're sit-and-wait predators,' says zoologist David Maitland of Scotland's Napier University, who is the first to describe the crabs' behaviour. 'They're extremely aggressive. They pick a spot in a stream, and if a snake comes near, they grab it with powerful claws. Their main diet is other maicou crabs - they're cannibals.'

Stick insect - Bacillus rossius

stick insect
This was found one on the car bonnet after driving in Castara on the old road towards Scarborough. Other than keeping them at school, I don't know a lot about them.


At Hillsborough Dam a few of these can be seen by keen watchers, they are often submerged.

More details:

List of flora of Tobago - their origins & uses