IIF Makes its Mark in Haiti
Earthquake means troubles times for iguana field workers

In 2007 and 2008, the International Iguana Foundation (IIF) supported field research that revealed that the Ricord’s Iguana (Cyclura ricordii) – previously thought to be extinct in Haiti – in fact does still survive. One very small nesting site was found in the town of Anse-à-Pitres, in the southeastern region of Haiti, on the Haitian-Dominican border. Nest monitoring was initiated by Ernst Rupp (Grupo Jaragua) and the local community youth organization KOSRA (Konsèy Sitwayen Reyini Ansapit). The nest site is very close to the sea and adjacent to a rocky outcrop that provides safe retreats for the iguana population.

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Ernst Rupp pointing to rocky retreats overlooking iguana nest site.

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Dr. Masami Accimé marking iguana nest with Haitian youth.

The IIF is working to launch a sustained field research and conservation program for this remnant population C. ricordii in Haiti. During an IIF-sponsored Ricord’s Iguana biology workshop, conducted by Stesha Pasachnik and Dr. Masani Accimé, field workers excavated several hatched nests, and confirmed the presence of a breeding population of Ricord’s Iguanas in Haiti.

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Stesha Pasachnik training local youth.

 

With the help of the IIF, Dr. Accimé conducted a series of socioeconomic studies in the Anse-à-Pitres community to help understand the human impacts on this very fragile species. This work was done with the help of a very dynamic local youth group, OJAA (Oganizasyon Jenès Aktif Ansapit). This youth group proved to truly care about the presence of Ricord’s Iguanas near their community when they staged a protest against construction activities at the Ricord’s Iguana nesting site in September 2009. The protest was successful and the threat was abated, and so far this nesting area remains safe under the watchful eyes of these very dedicated young Haitians and several field guides.

 

Current conservatioIIF Makes its Mark in Haitin goals are to begin studying the nesting biology of Ricord’s Iguana in 2010 to help strengthen what is known about the species, and help educate local government officials and the community. The IIF has pledged its support of the conservation efforts in Anse-à-Pitres, Haiti, for the next three years.

 

For the youth groups of Anse-à-Pitres, situations have become much more difficult. Since the earthquakes in Haiti on January 12, 2010, several of the OJAA and KOSRA youth have not been able to return home from Port-au-Prince where they attend school. Unfortunately, classes began on January 11, only one day before the quakes. To our knowledge none of these youth have been reported injured or missing. The IIF is supporting efforts to assist their families to transport these students back home to Anse-à-Pitres.