Curaçao and Bonaire form part of the Netherlands Antilles, while Aruba has a “status aparte” within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. All three islands are relatively arid compared to a typical Caribbean island, with mean annual rainfall of 409-553 mm, and experience several periods of drought lasting two or more years each century. A short history of the islands is given, and protected areas are described. The laws and regulations protecting amphibians and reptiles are complex, with general laws originating from the Kingdom of the Netherlands participation in international conventions (such as CITES) together with supplemental laws of the Netherlands Antilles and individual islands. Sea turtles are generally well protected, although their nesting beaches would be vulnerable to a rise in sea level. Among the terrestrial herpetofauna, only the Aruba Island rattlesnake (Crotalus unicolor) is on the IUCN Red List, being Critically Endangered. The status of this species and others of particular interest is described. The Curaçao Island snake (Liophis triscalis) should probably be included as Vulnerable or even Endangered, though there is insufficient information at present. Iguana iguana populations on the different islands, and the Curaçao whiptail (Cnemidophorus murinus murinus) on Klein Curaçao, are distinctive and significant for conservation. An overview is given of introduced amphibians and reptiles and their possible effects on the native fauna. The arid climate of the islands may hinder the establishment of invasive species, which are often not able to survive in the bush and thus reduces their impact on native species.
Established in 1982, the Aruba Island rattlesnake Crotalus unicolor Species Survival Plan (SSP) is the longest continual functioning snake conservation effort of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). The captive population has been maintained as an assurance population for the most threatened snake on Aruba. Over the last 26 years, 27 potential founders were imported for assimilation into the SSP to maintain genetic diversity. By 2014, the gene diversity in the captive population was over 94%. In 1986, the SSP began working in partner- ship with Arubans to aid the conservation of the rattle- snake and its ecosystem on the Island. This in situ programme has included ecological research, training, management recommendations, capacity building, workshops, public relations and education. These efforts have been integrated into a holistic long-term project that has resulted in many significant conservation suc- cesses. The extensive efforts made by the AZA and SSP to ensure the continued survival of C. unicolor are a model for zoo-based conservation efforts involving reptiles.