Mon | Nov 30, 2020

J’can Iguana in fight for its life

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:05 AM
 The Jamaican Iguana.
The Jamaican Iguana.

The Jamaican Iguana (Cyclura collei) is in need of your help. In fact, it is in a desperate fight for its life.

For the Jamaican Iguana, the Hellshire Hills are a critical site for survival and for Jamaica’s biodiversity. Although the area is in the Portland Bight Protected Area, its habitat of native deciduous and dry limestone forests are being lost as result of the activities of small farmers, animal rearers, wood cutters (for carving, furniture, or fence post), and flower harvesters.

OUTREACH

The Hope Zoo Kingston is reaching out to these residents to help them to understand the unintended negative consequences of their various income-generating activities and is seeking to partner with them in order to save Jamaica’s largest native land animal, which is critically endangered. Thought to be extinct between 1948 and 1990 and once found throughout Jamaica and on the offshore islets Great Goat Island and Little Goat Island, it is now confined to the forests of the Hellshire Hills.

“We want the community to become a part of the Jamaican Iguana conservation programme as a matter of necessity,” said Project Consultant for the Hope Zoo Iguana Headstart Project, Orlando Robinson. “Community participation and partnership are key to the success of any conservation effort.”

Hope Zoo Kingston is the recipient of a grant from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme to support the Headstart Project for the Jamaican Iguana. The project is hailed for being a crucial part of bringing the Jamaican Iguana back from extinction. The Hope Zoo Kingston has housed hundreds of iguana hatchlings from the wild for approximately five years or until they are of a size to be reintroduced. In fact, the recovery programme is globally recognised as a modern-day conservation success story and of which Jamaica can be very proud.

“With all that success in the zoo, our aim is really to reintroduce these precious animals into the wild. The project aims, in part, to counter the negative effects of human activity in the Jamaican Iguana habitat by providing forest users with other income streams that would reduce their dependence on forest resources.” Robinson noted.

“The forest users may not realise how they are impacting the habitats. They are providing for their families in the ways they know,” said Robinson, “but we want them to know that they are operating in a protected area and the Hope Zoo Headstart Programme is willing to train them for income alternatives.”

The conservation plan allows for training in all HEART Trust/NTA programmes offered at the Portmore campus and Tourism Product Development Company Team Jamaica training through the Portmore Community College.

Community members who are eligible to access the training are the forest users, their life partners, and their children who are 18 years or older and who still live with their parents.

“If you are an unemployed and unattached youth, 18 and older, who is thinking of using the forest in the ways we have mentioned, we can help you to develop an alternative income,” Robinson urged. “We will then contact persons and invite them to scheduled meetings to discuss their eligibility.”

Interested persons may contact Hope Zoo Kingston at 876-970-2459 or email at hopezooja@gmail.com. The interested individuals should indicate their area of interest along with their contact information. Only persons with a TRN (tax registration number) will qualify for HEART programmes or courses.