Threats to the Hispaniolan solenodon

Osé is an EDGE Fellow working on conservation of the Hispaniolan solenodon in the Massif de la Hotte, Haiti. Here he reports on some of his findings from recent fieldwork:

The solenodon seen as a pest

As you already know, the Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) is endemic to the island of Hispaniola. However, according to the findings of different scientists, in Haiti they can be found only in the Massif de la Hotte. This is for several reasons – because of the elevation, the temperature, the remaining forest area; in one word because of the very special habitat.

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Unfortunately, some inhabitants consider the Hispaniolan Solenodon and the Hutia (Isolobodon portoricensis) as pests; others consider them as wild animals that they can hunt and eat. And others barely consider it or don’t even know it as an important species for biodiversity.

A big problem identified up to Duchity (a town in the Massif de la Hotte) and the surrounded communities is that they confuse the hutia and the Hispaniolan solenodon; when you ask them about the “Nez longue” (solenodon), immediately, they refer to hutia; or sometimes some people confuse it with mongoose. We know this because of the description they make and the picture they identified for the solenodon. So, we know that they don’t really make the difference among those three species; especially between the “Zagouti” (hutia) and the “Nez Longue”. That means the work requires a good sense of humour, wisdom, and patience to find accurate information.

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When the taro plantation of the subsistence agriculturalists has been devastated by the hutia they think this is the solenodon. According to several people interviewed, a long time ago they used to use dogs and traps to hunt these species because they considered them as pests. Some people even stated that if they could they would kill them. It isn’t that easy to convince them of the importance of the species. So, there is a need for an environmental education program in the region.

Other causes of the decline of the Hispaniolan solenodon

The species have their own predators including mongoose, cats, dogs, and others. Then, the excessive rate of deforestation and the fragmentation of the land for subsistence agriculture is one of the most dangerous threats for the habitat of the solenodon. There are no activities other than agriculture, charcoal making, home construction; all those activities are big factors of deforestation.

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Then, from our observation, the birth control can be considered also as a big factor of deforestation. How? The more the population increase, the more the land will be fragmented and the higher the rate of deforestation, because parents tend to separate land to their children before they die. As a matter of fact, a stable community development program in the area will be more than helpful to conserve the habitat of the Hispaniolan solenodon in the wild.

If you would like to support Osé’s work to conserve the Hispaniolan solenodon, please donate here or become an EDGE Champion here.

Comments

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  1. Peter Bray said,

    on July 22nd, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Are there any captive breeding programs for these species?

  2. Sally Wren said,

    on October 2nd, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    One solenodon was kept at London Zoo in the 1960s, and in 1975 a captive breeding programme was established to safeguard the species against extinction. Unfortunately this programme was not a success, due to the difficulty of keeping the species in captivity.

    Osé is currently working to find out more about the Hispaniolian solenodon in the wild, and will hold an action planning workshop, using the results of his research to write a Conservation Action Plan for this fascinating species.

  3. Joel Timyan said,

    on November 7th, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Ose,
    Keep in touch w/ Societe Audubon d’Haiti, since some of the conservation & development work they are doing in Macaya area w/ Bird Conservation International may be relevant to conservation of land mammals. Also, have you contacted Ottenwalder re: possible captive breeding in DR?

    Joel

  4. Farah Sadoq said,

    on January 10th, 2009 at 4:24 am

    Are you sure the Solenodon is only in Hispaniola? I saw BBC coverage of the capture and release of one of these mamals yesterday. I immediately thought…..thats it, that is that weird animal I saw! I have tried to describe it to people as “like a rat but with an ant eater’s nose.” This however was near Cancun, Mexico. The animal came onto my balcony in the early hours of the morning. Where I was staying had a quite dense forest like environment, but near a golf course. I startled it when I came out onto the balcony and it startled me because I had never seen anything like it, not even in a book. It ran off in exactly the way that has been described and I just thought it might be brain damaged! The image of this strange creature remains very vivid. Can anyone tell me if there is any creature in Mexico that may look like this?

  5. myrrha said,

    on July 5th, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Hello,

    I found your site by searching ´Solenodon’ and ‘mexico’ on google which brought me to the comment above sent by Farah Sadoq. I was in Yelapa last week, an isolated little town that you can only get to by boat, when my boyfriend and I saw a strange creature in the jungle near a waterfall. Yelapa is in the State of Nayarit, Mexico. We have lived in Nayarit for a few years now and have spent quite a bit of time in Yelapa where we go for short vacations so we are familiar with some of the unusual wildlife of the area such as tejuns, armadillos etc. Still, we wondered what the creature that we saw by the waterfall could be and couldn’t figure it out based on the animals in the area. A friend just suggested that I look at a picture of a solenodon- and the animal we saw did look very much like this. I understand that solenodons are said to be nocturnal but the animal we saw was seen mid-day. Also, the animal we saw was fairly big, about the size of a large racoon. To me it seemed to have the body of a little bear or racoon, small rounded ears that stood up and out, a longish ‘rubbery’ snout that seemed very flexible but was more stout than thin like an anteater´s, and a hairless tail like an opussom or rat. The animal was covered in brown fur except for it´s tail. It moved like a racoon or a bear as it went foraging through the underbrush and then wandered off out of sight. I would also like to know if anyone has an idea of what kind of creature this might be?

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