Reptile conservation in the Caribbean

Reptile conservation in the Caribbean

Guidelines for Business Activities: Additional conservation actions

Context: A large gypsum quarry operates in Laguna Cabral, an IBA and a proposed global KBA in the Dominican Republic, within the range of the rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta), which is endemic to the island of Hispaniola. An estimated 5 percent of the global population of this iguana lives within the area of influence of the quarry operations. The iguana, which is primarily herbivorous, is important for forest ecology, because seeds passing through the animal germinate more rapidly, and it also helps to distribute seeds. According to the IUCN Red List, rhinoceros iguana is globally Vulnerable, threatened by hunting, loss of dry forest habitat, and predation by feral cats and mongoose. Higher levels of deforestation in Haiti mean that the iguana populations there are under even greater pressure than in the Dominican Republic.

Risks

  • In the area of the quarry, the iguana is threatened with extinction from a combination of local hunting and loss of dry forest, which is being cleared for charcoal and building materials.

Responses

The company aims to help boost the iguana population through a mixture of forest restoration, actions against hunting, and improvements to local livelihoods:

  • Research into and mapping of the iguana’s presence in and around the quarry site, to determine populations.
  • Detailed studies of hunting pressures and attitudes to hunting, to understand the pressures facing the iguana population.
  • Production and distribution of awareness-raising materials stressing the importance of the rhinoceros iguana for the survival of local ecosystems.
  • Promotion of dry forest restoration through development of best practices, establishment of a tree nursery, and planting of almost 2,000 saplings within selected areas.
  • Local economic activity has been stimulated in a few ways, to benefit the rhinoceros iguana:

º  Tree nurseries established at the quarry and in several communities surrounding the KBA provide direct sources of income (those employed to maintain them) and indirect sources of income (from selling fruit they produce).

º  ‘Iguaneros’ (local iguana hunters) have been employed, engaged, and trained as local guides to support the project and potentially support future ecotourism, which is being developed in the locality.

º  A major remaining challenge is the loss of dry forest for charcoal, and the team is looking at alternative livelihoods for those involved in illegal charcoal production and cutting of dry forest.

The project is a partnership between Grupo Jaragua (BirdLife in the Dominican Republic), BirdLife International, and CEMEX.