Round Island was once a verdant island, forested with a hardwood scrub plant community that included many endemic and unique species of palms. Introduction of goats and rabbits in the early nineteenth century caused rampant ecological damage, including the near total lost of the forest. The loss of the dominant plant community resulted in dramatic erosion; it is estimated that 90% of the soil was lost, and the island is now crisscrossed with deep gullies. The flora and fauna of Round Island rank among the world's most threatened.
Round Island acted as a final refuge for many Mauritian plants and animals, because rats were never introduced. The plight of Round Island came to the attention of conservationists in the 1970s, in part through the efforts of Gerald Durrell and the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust in the United Kingdom. Goats were removed from the island in 1979, and rabbits were exterminated in 1986, protecting some of the remaining plant species from grazing. Keel-scaled split-jaws are found throughout the island, but they are associated strongly with the sparse remaining forest.
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