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The Last Survivors Project

Aims

Assess the current conservation status and range of the solenodon and determine the effects of the threats to allow the development of an appropriate conservation management strategy.

Image | Hispaniolan Solenodon | © Eladio Fernandez
Location
Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic)
Species Background

The Hispaniolan solenodon and its relative the Cuban solenodon are the only living mammals to possess teeth designed to inject venom into their prey, like a snake. Solenodons split from all other living mammals around an amazing 76 million years ago, the same time as many mammalian orders, for example when elephants split from the sea-dwelling manatees. Solenodons separated into two species 25 million years ago, while dolphins split from whales and humans from from other monkeys. Solenodons are among the few land mammals to survive European colonisation of the West Indies. The Hispaniolan solenodon was believed to be extinct in Haїti until its continued existence was confirmed by an EDGE expedition in 2007.

Map & Range
Species Threats

Before European colonisation of Hispaniola the species had no natural predators on the island. It never evolved “anti-predator” defences and was poorly equipped to defend itself against introduced predators such as dogs, cats and mongooses. The species is probably also declining as a result of the loss of its forest habitat to logging.

Project actions
  •  Surveys and monitoring programmes to discover more about solenodon conservation status, ecology, distribution and behaviour.
  • Study the impact of habitat destruction, introduced species and human-caused mortality (such as baiting) on the solenodon population.
  • Determine abundance and distribution of introduced mammals.
  • Wide-scale education and awareness-raising campaigns and better protection of remaining forests are also required.
  • Development of a comprehensive Conservation Action Plan, detailing actions needed to save the species.
Achievements
  • Two MSc students on board to help socioeconomic work – surveys of locals to record public opinion of the solenodon and hutia, have interviewed over 200 people
  • Increased conservation capacity in Haiti by providing training to several members of the Haitian Conservation Youth Group along with another local NGO, so they now have the skills to undertake their own hutia and solenodon surveys.
  • Researchers have so far caught and radio-collared 13 new solenodons from different families to map movements.
  • Created an ‘informercial’ on YouTube (LINK) to increase awareness of the two species and the project.
  • Over 700 students from local schools have seen the kids version of the project informercial to date, which changed their perception of the species as damaging to crops.
  • 18 conservationists from the Caribbean attended the Island Species-Led Action course at the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation in September 2011.
  • Solenodon soft toys (LINK) were knitted by community groups and sold to raise money for the project and provide locals with an alternative income.
  • Dr Becky Coe from ZSL won a Michael Brambell Grant in 2010 to assist with the project field work.
  • In 2008, Osé Pauleus (LINK) completed his EDGE Fellowship focussed on the solenodon. Osé carried out a conservation assessment of the solenodon and gathered data on the distribution, abundance, ecology and threat status through sign surveys and community interviews.
Future Actions
  • Jessica Knapp from University of East Anglia working to establish where local dogs roam at night, the main solenodon predator. Roaming range of dogs will be mapped to chart how their activity overlaps with local solenodon populations.
  • Continue developing relationships with contacts in Cuba and integrate conservation programme goals and further opportunities to benefit all unique Caribbean mammals.
  • Develop plans to start a captive breeding programme over the medium to long term, assessing feasibility and success
Project Collaborators
Related Media
Since 2009, Dr José Nuñez-Miño has been the field project leader for the Last Survivors Project, raising awareness and conducting conservation actions for the last surviving land mamma...
We owe all of you a huge apology since it has been over two months since our last blog update. The whole team has been so rushed off our feet that we have not had much of a chance to writ...
Pedro Martinez is a biologist who works for the Last Survivors Project in the Dominican Republic which aims to conserve EDGE species such as the Hispaniolan solenodon and other native mam...
Photos

Project Funding Bodies