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Location Curaçao (to Netherlands)
Central coordinates 68o 59.42' West  12o 9.44' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3, A4i
Area 1,100 ha
Altitude 0 - 50m
Year of IBA assessment 2007

Site description Malpais is a former plantation, just north of Sint Michiels Bay. An earthen dam has been erected, thus creating two lakes, that retain at least some water during dry seasons in most but not all years. The IBA, that is the two lakes and their near surroundings, covers an area of c. 3 km2 from about 10 to 71 m asl. Greater Malpais is about twice the size of the IBA. [this IBA should include the surrounding area in my opinion to encompass some important dry scrub habitat and its associated bird species and to include the vegetation and waterhole below the dam which hosts a large and important Brown-throated Parakeet roost and a columbid roost that includes Scaly-naped and Bare-eyed Pigeons. The area is managed as part of a conservation area and has excellent well-signed and designated hiking trails which are maintained by the local conservation organization Uniek Curaçao. Unfortunately, the island’s large and apparently growing dumpsite is located just north and upstream of the Malpais freshwater ponds. The potential of contamination of the wetlands from toxins leaching from the dumpsite and from the adjacent pig farm is unknown. St Michael Lagoon (500 ha. 0 – 50 m altitude) is situated on the south coast of Curaçao some 5 km north-west of Willemstad and forms part of the greater Malpais conservation area. It is landlocked, lying inland from the coral reef-fringed St Michiels Bay. The area is basically basaltic in origin with overcapping hills of coralline limestone rock surrounding the lagoon.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Fulica caribaea resident  2007  100 individuals  poor  A1  Not Recognised 
Common Tern Sterna hirundo breeding  2002-2006  15 breeding pairs  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Bare-eyed Pigeon Patagioenas corensis resident  2000  600 individuals  poor  A3  Least Concern 
Caribbean Elaenia Elaenia martinica resident  2007  unknown  A2  Least Concern 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Wetlands (inland) Saline lakes  10%
Shrubland Arid lowland scrub  90%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
tourism/recreation minor

Other biodiversity Floristically the area is important as a number of endemic plants are present (Anonymous 1989). Apart from Christoffel National Park, Malpais is the only other area on Curaçao where the White-tailed Deer Oidocoleus virginianus is found. The endemic freshwater fish Poecilia vandepolli is present in the lakes (Vonk et al. 2007; Debrot, 2003). The area supports several or possibly all of the seven bat species known to occur on Curaçao as well as various lizard and endemic landsnail species.

Further web sources of information 

Site profile from Important Bird Areas in the Caribbean: key sites for conservation (BirdLife International 2008)

References Anonymous (1989);Beers, C. E., J. de freitas and P. Ketner. (1997);Bokma, W. (1972);Debrot A.O. (2003);Debrot, A. O. and J. A. de Freitas (1991);Nijman et al. (2007);Prins et al. (in prep.) ;Prins, T.G. & Nijman, V. (2005);Prins, T.G., Roselaar, C.A. & Nijman, V. (2005);Vonk et al. (2007);Voous, K.H. (1983)

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Malpais-St Michiel. Downloaded from on 30/10/2014

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