Flagship Species

In addition to endangered or endemic species, flagship species also includes those who are iconic, associated with local culture or have other economic or recreational value on Bonaire.

The 2020 Special Species list identified 25 flagship species for Bonaire. These species are include those which are endangered or endemic, as well any species which are iconic, associated with local culture or have other economic or recreational value for the island. These species include sea turtles, cacti, trees, conch, dolphins, bats, fish and birds.

Below three species have been highlighted to demonstrate the diversity of these iconic species, check them out to learn more!

Amazona barbadensis

Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot

Known as the Lora in Papiamentu, the Yellow-shouldered Amazon is a beautiful parrot that has a special place in the heart of many Bonairians. It is named for the distinct yellow patch on its “shoulder” (the crease of its wing), and had a bright green plumage over most of its body. They typically mate for life, and their nesting season is from May-August. They lay eggs in cavities trees and cliffs, where the female guards the clutch while the male provides food for her and the chicks.

Although the Yellow-shouldered Amazon is often confused with the Brown-throated Parakeet (Aratinga pertinax) you can distinguish by its larger size, its deep green underbelly (the parakeet’s is typically yellow-green), and the red and blue feathers on tips of its wings.

The Yellow-shouldered Amazon is native to Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, and Venezuela, but is locally extinct on Aruba and Curacao. Sadly, these parrots are becoming less abundant due to illegal poaching for the pet trade and habitat loss caused by historic deforestation by humans and present day deforestation by invasive goats and donkeys. The IUCN Red List lists the Yellow-shouldered Amazon as Vulnerable. In response, from 2006-2008 STINAPA worked to reforest Klein Bonaire with native plants, with the hope to restore habitat for the Yellow-shouldered Amazon and other local birds. In 2007, STINAPA restored the fence around Washington-Slagbaai National Park to exclude invasive goats. These birds are protected under island legislation. The local NGO Echo,, established in 2010, also works to protect and research the Yellow-shouldered Amazon, reforest the area with native plants and increase community awareness about their importance.

Pilosocereus lanuginosus/ Cephalocereus lanuginosus

Candle cactus

Known locally as Kadushi, the candelabra cactus is a large columnar cactus which typically grows between 3 – 12m tall. This blue/green cactus grows as a tree, with tall slender branches growing from a single trunk. Each branch is covered in sharp black and red spines which will turn yellow or gray with age. In addition to bell-shaped white flowers, this cactus bears purple-red fruit. A number of species depend on the nectar and fruit of these cacti to make it through prolonged dry periods on the island.

Cnemidophorus ruthveni

Bonaire Whiptail Lizard

This brightly colored lizard, gets it’s local name ‘blau-blau’ from the male’s distinctive bright blue coloring. Adult male lizards have a dark gray head with white or pale blue spots, brown or tan body and large white or pale blue spots on its flank. Females are typically gray-brown with pale stripes or large spots on their flanks. Endemic to Bonaire, this species is a common site around the island, often seen scurrying through gardens or basking in the warm Caribbean sun. Watch out if you stop for a picnic, as some of these lizards have gotten quite brave when there is the promise of fresh fruit or snacks waiting for them. Its important not to feed these animals as these food items are not part of their normal diet and can cause them to get sick.

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