18 Oct 2016

Irreplaceable - Sierra de Bahoruco, Dominican Republic

Narrow-billed Tody © Eladio Fernández
Narrow-billed Tody © Eladio Fernández
By BirdLife News
At 1,100 km, Sierra de Bahoruco National Park, is the largest terrestrial protected area of the Dominican Republic and one of the most important refuges for Hispaniola island’s unique biodiversity.
Located on the southern border separating the Dominican Republic and Haiti, this Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) supports many different subtropical forest types including montane pinelands, sub-humid forests and the severely threatened broadleaf forests (including cloud and humid forests). Sierra de Bahoruco’s natural ecosystems hold more than 40 globally threatened (many endemic) species including endangered birds such as the Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata, La Selle Thrush Turdus swalesi, Bicknell’s Thrush Catharus bicknelli and Hispaniolan Crossbill Loxia megaplaga; six Critically Endangered frogs and two Endangered endemic land mammals – the Hispaniolan solenodon Solenodon paradoxus and hutia Plagiodontia aedium.
But this diverse IBA is in danger of being lost. The strongest of the many threats is illegal agriculture encroachment by local land owners and immigrant Haitian farmers, which threatens in particular the biodiverse-rich humid broadleaf forests on the southern slopes that are home to many of the endemic and migratory species. Other threats include forest fires due to agriculture and charcoal making, heavy use of agrochemical products and illegal taking of birds, mainly parrots.
Esteban Garrido, Jaragua Volunteer © Grupo Jaragua
Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in the Dominican Republic) has been working at Sierra de Bahoruco since 2003, developing a wide range of activities to respond to these challenges. They have been working with local communities to encourage sustainable activities like ecotourism and bee-keeping, and carrying out research, species and habitat monitoring, reforestation, land purchase in the buffer zone of the Park, and advocacy. As a result of their successful media campaign highlighting the effect of encroachment on the Park, the Government has established a committee of key stakeholders to repare a Strategic Conservation Plan for the Park.
The Plan is being developed in consultation with local communities, including those responsible for illegal activities and it is expected to be ready by October this year. Conservation action will follow, so fingers crossed!