Kwajalein Sea Turtles
And some terrestrial reptiles

We have seen only two species of sea turtles in the Marshalls. It is likely that other species such as the Leatherback or Loggerhead pass by occasionally, but to our knowledge, have not been seen around the reefs. Despite eggs beiing collected and some turtles harvested for food by local islanders, populations of both the Green and Hawksbill sea turtles seem pretty healthy in Kwajalein Atoll. This may be because most of the atoll is essentially leased by the US government and no habitation on many of the mid atoll islands is permitted, making it more difficult to fish for turtles or collect eggs from much of the atoll.

Chelonia mydas
Green Turtle

Eretmochelys imbricata
Hawksbill Turtle

Lizards and Geckos

We have only a few species of lizards personally recorded from Kwajalein, although there are certainly more. The National Biodiversity Report of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (published in 2000 and titled The Marshall Islands--Living Atolls Amidst the Living Sea) reports nine species of geckos and another nine skinks. We may have seen other geckos that we did not properly distinguish from the two we figure here, but we do know of at least one other that temporarily invaded Kwajalein. For a couple of years in the 1990s, a gecko species at least twice as large as the common House and Mourning geckos could be commonly seen, sometimes eating the smaller gecko species. However, they apparently did not form a lasting population and have not been sighted for maybe 20 years. Also for a couple of years, a large monitor lizard, probably Varanus indicus, was sighted a number of times around Kwajalein. This lizard, not native to the Marshalls, was reportedly introduced by Japanese during WWII to several islands (including Japtan in Enewetak Atoll, where I saw a captured specimen). How one of these could have made it to Kwajalein, I cannot say, but I did see a photograph of the Kwajalein specimen on a tree.

Hemidactylus frenatus
House Gecko

Lepidodactylus lugubris
Mourning Gecko

Emoia cyanura
Copper-tailed Skink

Lamprolepis smaragdina
Emerald Tree Skink


The one terrestrial snake known from Kwajalein is the introduced Blind Snake. The only sea snakes we have seen at Kwajalein are several specimens of the Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Hydrophis platurus) found dead on beaches. This is a pelagic species usually living well out to sea and is not found around reefs; it shows up on a beach occasionally when it dies or is otherwise washed ashore. During the many years we spent on Kwajalein, we would occasionally receive reports of banded sea snake sightings. All of those I was able to see (either in photos or in the flesh) were actually Banded Snake Eels (Myrichthys colubrinus), a relatively common eel that does have the appearance of a snake. I did hear one report of a Banded Sea Snake (Laticauda colubrina) from Majuro that I consider reliable. A high school science teacher on Majuro told me one had been captured there and he had it preserved at the school. Possibly it was a waif, somehow traveling up from Fiji, where they are common.

Indotyphlops braminus
Brahminy Blind Snake

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