Press Release reprinted from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund website:
30 September 2014
Anse-à-Pitres, Haiti – The municipal government in Anse-a-Pitres, Haiti, recently created a Municipal Protected Area, legally protecting 3,000 hectares of dry forest for the conservation of a small population of the Ricord’s Iguana (Cyclura ricordii).
One of only nine iguanas of its kind in the world, this species of large rock iguana has an extremely limited distribution. Only four small isolated subpopulations exist in the south-central part of the island of Hispaniola. Three of the subpopulations can be found in the Dominican Republic, where significant conservation efforts have taken place based on a Species Recovery Plan outlined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Iguana Specialist Group.
The species was thought to be extinct in Haiti until Ernst Rupp, working with the International Iguana Foundation (IIF) and Grupo Jaragua, discovered a small strip of beach where a pregnant female was sighted. Ricord’s Iguana nests were then found in Anse-à-Pitres in 2007 on the edge of the town, which is adjacent to the southern Haitian-Dominican border, and falls within the Massif de La Selle-Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo bi-national corridor. This is the only subpopulation currently known to exist in Haiti, but it is threatened by hunting and nest poaching activities.
Habitat degradation also threatens the Ricord’s Iguana, with deforestation for charcoal production and livestock grazing destroying the dry forests of Anse-à-Pitres. These iguanas are also hunted, which further increases the pressure for survival. As the largest endemic herbivore in Haiti, Ricord’s Iguanas help alleviate deforestation by playing a vital role in dispersing plant seeds.
With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) through its investment in the Caribbean Islands biodiversity hotspot, IIF worked with community members in Anse-à-Pitres to create the Arrete Communal, the first municipal reserve in Haiti.
“When we met with the people, we tried to educate them about Ricord’s Iguanas and their importance to the environment, but we also learned about their needs and perspective,” said Masani Accimé, project coordinator with IIF.
In response to the community’s interests, IIF is working to develop a management plan integrating the needs of local herdsmen, and has provided awareness raising activities and environmental education for the communities of Anse-à-Pitres.
Conserving the small population of Ricord’s Iguana in Anse-à-Pitres is not only about saving the species from extinction in Haiti, it is also about introducing the concept of wildlife and biodiversity conservation to the Haitian public. Investing in the community and the future of Ricord’s Iguanas by building a successful biodiversity conservation program in Anse-à-Pitres will provide community members with the resources they need to become effective stewards of their environment.
For more information on the Ricord’s Iguana and what the IIF is doing to help this species, see the Species Page.