Dr. Jose Nunez-Mino has sent an update on the progress of The Last Survivors project in the Dominican Republic and its work to enable the long term conservation of the Hispaniolan solenodon and hutia.
One year on
It’s hard to believe but the project has been running for just over a year. For us this year has flown by and we have achieved a lot in that time thanks to the efforts of everyone who has been involved. The British ambassador, Steven Fisher, kindly hosted a reception at his official residence in Santo Domingo to mark the first anniversary as part of the International year of Biodiversity. The reception was attended by a wide range of people across government, private business and many other different organisations/institutions. As part of the reception celebrations we put on a photo exhibition of the fauna of Hispaniola which then moved on to the festival of plants and flowers at the Dominican Republic (DR) botanical gardens and is now located at the Dominican Republic museum of natural history until the end of the year.
The team was asked to take part in the national red list review workshop as well as a conservation planning workshop for two endangered bird species (Bicknell’s thrush and the black-capped petrel). Both of these meetings were a great opportunity to meet other people working in conservation across Hispaniola (Haiti and DR) and the whole of the Caribbean. The threats faced by many of the species that we are all working on are very similar (primarily alien species and habitat destruction) so it was great to be able to discuss how we can work together in order to achieve our conservation goals more effectively.
Field work has been progressing at an ever increasing rate and we have surveyed for solenodon and hutia in some very remote areas within Del Este and Jaragua national parks. It has been tough going at times but our team effort has helped us to overcome the challenges we faced time and again. We have seen signs of both species in various different places and we will soon be putting our first models together that will give us an initial idea of the likely distribution of both species across the island.
The education department at the national zoo has continued to give talks about solenodon and hutia to schools visiting the national zoo and we have also run a number of successful training courses not just for our research assistants but also for members of staff at the national zoo as well as guides working in different parts of the country.
There is still a lot of work to be done so the next twelve months will undoubtedly be just as busy as the last twelve: Ros Kennerly will be joining us in the field early in 2011, we will work more widely across the whole island and increase our training/capacity building efforts.
We also need to re-double our education/outreach work in order to continue to reach as wide an audience as possible. During my last trip into the field an angry villager suggested that solenodon were eating his bean crop and threatened to kill them. He had seen nose pokes in the area where something had eaten through some of his bean plants; he assumed one thing was linked to the other. I had to explain that solenodon would not eat through any crop and on examination of the plants I thought the likely culprits were rats which are very abundant in the area.
There will be another update before the year is up but as always you can get more regular updates on our facebook page and on twitter.