Tourism October 19, 2016 | 9:22 am

BirdLife calls Sierra de Bahoruco ‘irreplaceable’

Pedernales, Dominican Republic (BirdLife News).- At 1,100 km, Sierra de Bahoruco NationalPark, is the largest terrestrial protected area of the Dominican Republic andone of the most important refuges for Hispaniola island’s unique biodiversity.

Located on the southern border separating theDominican 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 (includingcloud and humid forests). Sierra de Bahoruco’s natural ecosystems hold morethan 40 globally threatened (many endemic) species including endangered birdssuch as the Black-capped Petrel Pterodroma hasitata, La Selle Thrush Turdusswalesi, Bicknell’s Thrush Catharus bicknelli and Hispaniolan Crossbill Loxiamegaplaga; six Critically Endangered frogs and two Endangered endemic landmammals – the Hispaniolan solenodon Solenodon paradoxus and hutia Plagiodontiaaedium.

But this diverse IBA is in danger of beinglost. The strongest of the many threats is illegal agriculture encroachment bylocal land owners and immigrant Haitian farmers, which threatens in particularthe biodiverse-rich humid broadleaf forests on the southern slopes that arehome to many of the endemic and migratory species. Other threats include forestfires due to agriculture and charcoal making, heavy use of agrochemicalproducts and illegal taking of birds, mainly parrots.

Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in the DominicanRepublic) has been working at Sierra de Bahoruco since 2003, developing a widerange of activities to respond to these challenges. They have been working withlocal communities to encourage sustainable activities like ecotourism andbee-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 mediacampaign highlighting the effect of encroachment on the Park, the Governmenthas established a committee of key stakeholders to prepare a StrategicConservation Plan for the Park.

The Plan is being developed in consultationwith local communities, including those responsible for illegal activities andit is expected to be ready by October this year. Conservation action willfollow, so fingers crossed!

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