“Haiti has less than 1% of its original primary forest”. It was in November 2018 that Professor S. Blair Hedges, director of Temple University’s Centre for Biodiversity, and his team, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that Haiti is currently going through a mass extinction of biodiversity. However, Hedges’ work on Haiti’s species and habitat conservation goes as far back as nine years ago, when he teamed up with Haitian businessman Philippe Bayard, CEO of Sunrise Airways and president of the leading conservation group in Haiti, Société Audubon Haiti, to raise public awareness about Haiti’s disappearing species—through videos, brochures, public lectures, and a documentary film—and establish private nature reserves to protect them. In 2015, the pair founded Haiti National Trust.
Haiti’s government took notice. A few remaining biodiversity “hot spots” where original forests and their species still exist were identified and, in 2015, Haiti declared Grand Bois—a mountain in the southwest of Haiti with rare and endangered plants and animals—a national park, classifying it as a priority for conservation and validating the critical need to acquire and protect the area.
Grand Bois is found in Haiti’s Massif de la Hotte mountain range, the number one priority conservation area in the country, and one of the most important areas for amphibians in the world. Being home to 19 critically endangered amphibians species, the Massif de la Hotte is an Alliance for Zero Extinction site and also a Key Biodiversity Area—a nationally identified region of global significance. Parks were also created for Deux Mamelles and Grand Colline, other mountainous hot spots in southwestern Haiti. However, the resources for the Haitian government to protect these large and remote areas, whether publicly or privately owned, are unfortunately very limited.
For decades, Bayard and Hedges have witnessed the continual degradation of the environment in Haiti. “Sadly, conservation efforts in Haiti were not producing convincing results and therefore the current system of protected areas is not working. Something different was truly needed,” said Bayard.
To assemble the mountain tracts, Bayard and Hedges sought donors to purchase private land and help pay for the park’s management. Two experienced conservation organizations, Global Wildlife Conservation and Rainforest Trust, joined the effort and the Grand Bois’ purchase was completed on January 18th,2019.
“It’s more than 1,200 acres that hold at least 68 species of vertebrates, including some found nowhere else in the world, and plants and animals previously thought to be extinct, such as Ekman’s Magnolia tree and the Tiburon Stream Frog”, explains Hedges. “Now with funding from Global Wildlife Conservation and Rainforest Trust, we are beginning the process of land purchase and management to build a network of private nature reserves and to assist the government in managing other protected areas.”
In addition to his research and conservation work in Haiti, Hedges has collaborated with the Philadelphia Zoo to house and/or captively breed the most endangered frog species still found in the country.
What is your opinion about the idea of privatizing natural reserves in order to protect them?
Growing up surrounded by nature, Maria’s idea of a perfect scenario resumes itself to a green, sunny and quiet one. She loves to cook vegan food (and even more to eat it), long one-on-one chats, to swim in the ocean, live music, to play the ukulele and a good book.
Her life goal is to travel the world, saving wildlife species and habitats.
Latest posts by Maria Pereira (see all)
- WWF Launches Global Petition to “Stop Plastic Pollution” - March 15, 2019
- Haiti Creates First Private Nature Reserve to Protect Endangered Species - March 6, 2019
- The toilet paper that builds toilets - January 10, 2019