2017 was a year filled with successes in conservation. Listed here are two of the Caribbean accomplishments Island Conservation, their supporters, partners, and friends are celebrating this year.
A report by Emily Heber for Island Conservation.
Cabritos Island, Dominican Republic
Cabritos is an island within a saltwater lake that is home to two species of threatened iguanas: the Critically Endangered Ricord’s Iguana and the Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana (pictured above). Although the individuals are impressive in size, their populations began to dwindle as invasive feral cats and donkeys destroyed nests, preyed on juveniles, and damaged their critical habitat. The Ricord’s Iguana and Rhinoceros Iguana are the only two rock iguanas that overlap in their natural range. Both species have been declining in the Caribbean due to invasive species and habitat loss.
After years of conservation efforts, these two species now have safe habitat on Cabritos Island. This island ecosystem is now the only place on Earth where the Critically Endangered Ricord’s Iguana can roam free from the threat of feral cats, donkeys, and cows. These threatened iguanas survive as four populations, with three in the Southwest of the Dominican Republic and one in Haiti.
Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico
After more than a decade of conservation intervention, Desecheo National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is once again safe for the Threatened Higo Chumbo cactus, native seabirds, and unique lizards found nowhere else in the world. Over 100 years ago, the island was a thriving nesting ground for thousands of native seabirds. Approximately 15,000 Brown Boobies, 2,000 Red-footed Boobies (Sula sula), 2,000 Brown Noddies (Anous stolidus), 1,500 Bridled Terns (Onychoprion anaethetus), and hundreds of Magnificent Frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens), Laughing Gulls (Larus atricilla), and Sooty Terns (Onychoprion fuscatus) nested here.
After the introduction of invasive mammals such as goats and rats, the islands seabird population and native vegetation began to dwindle until almost no seabirds were nesting in the refuge. Now, after a decade of conservation interventions, the island is beginning to rebound. Seabirds are returning and the Threatened Higo Chumbo cactus is beginning to show new growth.