Sun | Sep 24, 2017

LETTER OF THE DAY - Jamaicans must fight to preserve natural heritage

Published:Tuesday | September 10, 2013 | 9:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I am writing to express my horror at the news of negotiations between Chinese investors and the Government of Jamaica with respect to developments in the Hellshire Hills and Portland Bight Protected Area.

Having helped, in a small way, with the early days of the Jamaican iguana recovery effort, back in the mid-1990s, I remember vividly my first and only wild encounter. It was just months after the sensational rediscovery of the iguanas in Hellshire. I spent hours in the searing heat in the Hellshire sun in the hope of getting just a glimpse of one of the handful of remaining animals. I got that glimpse, and the memory will remain with me forever.

Since that day, recovering the iguana from perhaps single figures to today's still tiny but more stable numbers has been a monumental task, fighting against the odds, with few resources and little support. It is thanks to the self-sacrifice, passion, bravery, and tenacity of a small number of truly remarkable people that Jamaica, and the world, are still lucky enough to have Jamaican iguanas.

What on earth, then, is the Government thinking? Build a huge international port within the Portland Bight Protected Area? What does 'protected' mean, then?

WHAT'S NEXT?

Is it not enough to allow the gradual erosion of Cockpit Country, the country's most biodiverse hotspot? Hellshire, too, must be ruined?

The consequences of such 'development' for Jamaican biodiversity, and iguanas specifically, are unthinkable and unquestionably disastrous. That such a plan should even reach the negotiating table for consideration is shameful, considering what Jamaica, and the world, stand to lose.

People of Jamaica, do not take this lying down! Fight for your unique natural heritage! Protect it and cherish it! Once it is gone, you will never get it back. If this happens, Jamaica, and indeed the world, will be a poorer place.

Richard Gibson

Herpetologist and conservationist