Scotland Returns 170-year-old Lizard Fossil to Jamaica

170-year-old lizard fossil

The extinction of Giant Jamaican Galliwasps in the 1800s was a casualty of the sugar cane plantation economy, which ravaged their natural habitat and introduced predators like rats to the island. Now, a 170-year-old lizard specimen is set to return to its Jamaican homeland from Scotland as part of efforts toward reparatory justice.

This remarkable move marks the first repatriation of a natural history specimen in the Caribbean and follows a 2019 memorandum of understanding between the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of Glasgow (UofG). The agreement aims to foster collaboration in research and education while addressing the historical legacies of colonialism.

The Jamaican Giant Galliwasp, presumed extinct, was collected in the 1850s and became part of the University of Glasgow’s collections in 1888. Now, a joint team from UWI and the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) will journey to Glasgow to retrieve this significant specimen.

Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of UWI, emphasizes the symbolic importance of returning the galliwasp to its rightful place. He sees it as a pivotal step toward initiating regional and international dialogues on repatriation.

The fate of the Giant Jamaican Galliwasps serves as a poignant reminder of the ecological devastation wrought by colonial industries like sugar cane plantations. As efforts towards reparatory justice gain momentum, the return of this specimen signifies a commitment to acknowledging and addressing the lasting impacts of colonialism on both the natural world and indigenous communities.