The article below (about the “two likkle lizard” as our Minister of Works so contemptuously referred to the endangered Jamaican Iguana, in Parliament) appeared in the “Scientific American” this week. The IUCN* SSC* Iguana Specialist Group has just met at Kingston’s Hope Zoo to discuss our native animal’s uncertain future. I have highlighted a couple of passages in bold. You can find the original article by John R. Platt here: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/2013/11/14/jamaican-iguana/
*The IUCN is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The Jamaican Iguana is on its “Critically Endangered” list. If you would like to read further details (including taxonomy, assessment information, geographic range, population, habitat and ecology, threats, conservation actions and bibliography) take a look at the IUCN website here: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/full/6027/0
*The SSC is the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, “A science-based network of more than 7,500 volunteer experts from almost every country of the world, all working together towards achieving the vision of ’a world that values and conserves present levels of biodiversity.’” For more information on the SSC read here: https://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/who_we_are/about_the_species_survival_commission_/
More than a million tourists visited Jamaica last year. The vast majority of them traveled to the famous hotels and beaches of Kingston, the country’s capital city. Few, if any, ventured about 25 kilometers to the west to the rocky limestone shores of Hellshire Hills. If they had, they might have seen something not many other people have ever had the opportunity to observe: the critically endangered Jamaican iguana (Cyclura collei).
But a small group of people gathering in Kingston this week know the Jamaican iguana quite well. The members of the IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group have spent the past 20 years working to preserve this rare lizard, which was feared to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1991. The group’s work since 1993 has been called one of the greatest successes in conservation science, but today the Jamaican iguana faces new threats and government indifference. Questions remain whether the Jamaican iguana will have another 20 years of opportunities.
Blame the mongoose
The Jamaican iguana’s decline began in 1872. That year the colonial government imported one of the predators that still plagues the iguana today, the Indian mongoose (Herpestes javanicus). Intended to stop white-bellied rats (Niviventer niviventer) from eating sugar-cane crops, the mongooses didn’t stop there. They quickly spread across Jamaica, eating everything they could find. A Popular Science article from 1898 describes the ecological disaster: “It eats fruits of all kinds, fish, wild fowl, snakes, lizards, and crabs; and the once plentiful edible lizards and land crabs are now rarely seen. All young and tender life, both animal and vegetable, is included in its daily menu.”
Full-grown iguanas can defend themselves from mongooses, but iguana eggs are another story. Most lizards lack the long-term memory to protect their young or their nests. After mother iguanas wandered away from their nests the invasive mongooses dined on iguana eggs and hatchlings. Before long the species had disappeared everywhere except Goat Islands, two smaller islets off the coast of Jamaica.
A temporary extinction
Jamaican iguanas persisted on Goat Islands until the 1940s when they too disappeared, probably due to invasive predators such as the goats for which the islands are named as well as feral cats. Scientists assumed, at this point, that the species had gone extinct.
But 1970 brought a surprise. A hunter’s dog found—and killed—a single iguana in Hellshire Hills. Maybe the species wasn’t extinct after all. It took until 1990 before another iguana was found, again by a hunter’s dog. The wounded lizard was brought to Hope Zoo in Kingston, where resident herpetologist Peter Vogel recognized the importance of the find. A survey conducted soon after discovered a small population of probably fewer than 100 iguanas living in one of the few undisturbed areas of Hellshire Hills.
In 1991 Vogel watched two female iguanas lay their eggs. After they left he dug up the eggs and incubated them in his office. In 1992 he did something similar, corralling a nest site and capturing the hatchlings as they emerged. The two actions saved about 20 hatchlings. Now the real work would begin.
In 1993 the Iguana Specialist Group held its first meetings regarding the Jamaican iguana. A population habitat viability analysis revealed grim news for the species. “It was pretty clear that the only iguanas out there at the time were aging adults,” says Tandora Grant, senior research coordinator at the San Diego Zoo and program officer of the Iguana Specialist Group. The Hellshire Hills areahad high populations of both mongooses and feral cats, both of which were taking their toll on iguana populations. “All the younger classes were basically eaten,” she says. “We realized very quickly that this animal needed crisis conservation management.”
A Jamaican iguana communal nesting site. The mother near the center of the photo is kicking up sand to lay her eggs.
Researchers hurriedly conducted more surveys and ramped up their efforts to bring some hatchlings back to Hope Zoo, where they would be kept safe from predators until they were old enough to defend themselves and survive in the wild, a process known as headstarting. Grant goes to Jamaica once or twice a year to check on the captive animals, giving them complete health assessments and tracking their progress. “We figure out who is fit enough and big enough to be released every year.”
The first release of headstarted iguanas—one male and one female—took place in 1996. A few more young lizards went back the next year, with numbers slowly climbing each year after that. The headstart program, meanwhile, had an almost immediate positive effect. “Within two or three years after our animals were released we saw them back at the nest sites reproducing themselves,” Grant says. “So the number of breeding females has grown and grown and grown.”
An automated camera captured this image of a mongoose leaving a Jamaican iguana nest with an egg in its mouth.
While all of this was going on, additional steps were taken to control mongoose access to the iguana nesting sites. A 10-kilometer circle of traps was set up, which catches mongooses “all the time,” Grant says. Since mongooses a present throughout Jamaica it would be impossible to remove all of the mongooses from Hellshire Hills, but fewer now get into the nest sites.
Efforts have continued to expand. In 2006 the team decided to double the number of hatchlings brought into the headstart program from 20 to 40. The animals live at Hope Zoo for an average of five years until they reach optimal size and health. This April a record 52 Jamaican iguanas were released back into the wild.
Although it is unknown exactly how many Jamaican iguanas exist today, Grant reports that the number of known breeding females has grown by a factor of six. “We now have over 40 females nesting. This year we had a record count of over 300 hatchlings that emerged from the nest sites.”
That success created a slight problem. The two existing iguana nest sites weren’t big enough to accommodate the increased number of egg-laying females. “Hellshire is all just sharp, sharp rock,” Grant says. “There are only the two open, naturally sandy soil sites that have the right amount of sun to let the eggs incubate. Females were occasionally digging up other females’ eggs because there’s a very finite amount of space to nest in.” (The iguanas do occasionally nest in rock holes that have some dirt inside, but those are more open to mongoose invasion. Grant shared a series of camera-trap photos of a female iguana defending her rock nest against a mongoose, then getting bored and walking off. The next image shows the mongoose emerging from the nest with an egg in its mouth.)
To improve the situation, the team decided to create a third nest site. It wasn’t easy. “Guys hauled in dirt on their backs for weeks and weeks and weeks,” she says. The effort paid off: iguanas are now starting to nest at the artificial site as well.
The next 20 years – if we get that far
Despite the successes of the past 20 years, new threats have emerged. For one thing, people still enter Hellshire Hills to illegally cut down trees, which they then burn to create charcoal, an industry that employs 10,000 people in the area. The constant disturbance and accompanying hunting dogs could damage the fragile recovery of the iguanas.
For another, a long-planned goal of reintroducing Jamaican iguanas to Goat Islands now appears be on hold. “In 1993 we decided this would be one of the most important actions we could take,” Grant says. Mongooses and other predators could be completely eliminated from the islands—goats have already been removed—providing a safe habitat for the iguanas. “Goat Islands would then be a source for reproduction and reintroduction back to Hellshire,” she says, “because Hellshire will always be conservation dependent. If you had Goat Islands healthy and breeding it could be the headstart program instead of Hope Zoo.”
The creation of a second population site is critical for the iguanas. “If you have a single population site, as we do now, you’re always at risk. A secondary population is considered much, much less risky. That was going to be our crown jewel.”
That doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. A Chinese company has proposed building a massive shipping hub on the islands. “It’s not just Goat Islands they want to develop,” Grant says. “There will also be shipping roads that will likely go right through where the iguanas are now. The whole program may be in jeopardy.”
Simply moving the iguanas into a captive breeding program or to some other site (assuming one could be found) may not work, even if it becomes necessary. To date, Jamaican iguanas have only bred five times in captivity. Finding an open site that matches the climate of Hellshire Hills may not be possible.
“We’ll have to wait to see what the Jamaican government has for ideas,” Grant says, to protect the iguanas from both charcoal and the possible shipping facility. “I think the iguanas need a place to live, otherwise it’s just a matter of time. We brought them back from extinction, but if there’s not the will to keep them that way then it’s just going to go right back to the where they were before.”
All the same, Grant says she is trying to maintain hope and remains proud of the successes they have had over the years: “Every time I go to Jamaica I feel encouraged. This is a very good model of a program that can work, but it doesn’t have a happy ending. Hopefully the book’s not written yet.”
Photos by Rick Van Veen, courtesy IUCN
Iguana iguana (nomialnomial.wordpress.com)
An Iguana Park!!! (ecuadorjaunt.com)
I have been sitting at home today, struggling with the flu bug, reading a long series of live tweets from a forum intended to “educate” the Jamaican public on the wonderful benefits of the logistics hub. Some see the hub as the savior of the economy – a kind of magic bullet – while others do not want this development to take place within a major Protected Area, as projected. Residents appear concerned (and confused) about what benefits the hub will (or will not) bring them.
On one fundamental thing, most would agree: We know very little indeed about the logistics hub.
At a joint press briefing earlier this week (I would have reported earlier, but the flu kicked in soon after) the Scientific Officer at the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), the local non-governmental organization that manages the Portland Bight Protected Area told us that the project remains “mired in secrecy.” There is a total, and mystifying, lack of transparency. Not even the author of the so-called “scoping study” of the area, Dr. Conrad Douglas, has any details of the project. He just produced this study in a vacuum, it seems.
Several groups attended the briefing, hosted by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) at its Earth House headquarters. Apart from C-CAM, Chairman of the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) Robert Stephens was there; so were Professor Byron Wilson and Dr. Kurt McLaren of the University of the West Indies‘ (UWI) Department of Life Sciences. Representatives of the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (of which JET is a member) were also present.
The scientists went on to critique aspects of Dr. Douglas’ study, as follows…
The literature review was totally inadequate. Dr. Douglas did not refer to some important studies that he should have consulted (see the list below, for your own research if you wish). A whole body of scientific work was ignored;
The scientific value of the study was seriously compromised by numerous factual errors and contradictory statements;
There was too much focus on Goat Islands, whereas the entire area should have been discussed. The Hellshire Hills, for example (where the Jamaican Iguana was “re-discovered” in 1990 after being considered extinct) was not even mentioned;
The author of the study did not consult at all with some pretty key entities, both government and non-government: C-CAM, which manages the area, and the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), for example. He seemed to be writing it in a vacuum;
In its rush to comply with the wishes of China Harbour Engineering Company, the scientists are afraid that the government is taking short cuts and circumventing the proper processes. Everything is happening in the wrong order. An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should provide the basis for a decision to take the project for approval, not the ill-informed, hurried scoping study. They should not use the EIA afterwards;
There is no economic cost benefit analysis of this and several other alternative sites. This should also take place before any decision is made.
Alternative sites were rejected out of hand. Why? In response to a question on this from Television Jamaica’s Janella Precius, Mr. Hay said it was hard to suggest alternative sites when it is not know what exactly is envisaged (the size of the project, for example). Bowden Harbour in St. Thomas (a huge harbor, by the way that was used in the colonial era); Kingston Harbour, where much infrastructure already exists; or even Montego Bay or the north coast might have been possible. Anyway, Robert Stephens added, the onus should not be on non-governmental organizations to suggest locations; what a disingenuous throwaway line that was from some politician, a few weeks ago: “Well, why don’t you guys suggest somewhere?” or words to that effect. It seems that China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) has said “We want the Portland Bight Protected Area,” and the Jamaican Government has said, “OK, we will get round things and make it happen.” Minister Omar Davies already said in Parliament that no alternative was under consideration by CHEC or its enabler, the Government. “The government says it’s all or nothing,” said Mr. Hay.
What next, it was asked at the briefing? Well, Jamaica has signed onto a lot of United Nations Conventions. It would be in breach of these. And there is a long list of those conventions. JET has already indicated the possibility of legal action. And, most importantly, as Diana McCaulay said: “Much more engagement by ordinary Jamaicans is needed. Otherwise, we will fail.”
By the way, a note on the “two likkle lizard” (Minister Davies’ words) – in other words, the highly endangered Jamaican Iguana. The Goat Islands were actually suggested as a sanctuary for them back in 2003, I understand. No, there aren’t any iguanas there right now – and no one ever said there were! But they could thrive there.
And it’s not possible to do a “Noah’s Ark,” as Professor Wilson called it. You cannot simply transplant mangroves, or seagrass, from one area to another and expect it to thrive just like it was doing somewhere else. It was doing well somewhere else for a reason. (On our trip to Goat Islands, we saw a great deal of very healthy mangrove and seagrass). It has been proven, all over the world, that removing mangrove will reduce the coastal defenses against climate change – storm surges and so on. Also, did you know that mangrove forests retain the highest levels of carbon? In fact, the United Nations will buy your mangrove forests under its REDD program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries). You can find more details at www.un-redd.org.
And how exactly do you “relocate” a fish sanctuary? The study was very dismissive of the “degraded” fish sanctuaries. We don’t know how lucky we are, said Dr. McLaren – we have rich resources. Volunteers come from around the world to study our biodiversity; he has a Colombian student doing research at the moment. Environmental awareness should be much more deeply embedded in the school curriculum, as we are “failing to excite public interest in the environment,” the panelists agreed.
Another participant, who came later in the conference, noted also that there will almost inevitably be pressure on the area’s fresh water supplies. Such matters were not mentioned in the Douglas study, by the way.
Now, today’s forum went on all day. (Incidentally, out of a total of 24 panelists there was only one woman – the patriarchy ruleth?) Dr. Douglas declared that his study was not an EIA (well, clearly) and that nothing – nothing – could be concluded from it. What was the point of doing it then, if it is so inconclusive? He did, however, betray his bias towards development, said Diana McCaulay. But at the end of it all, my friends on Twitter seemed as baffled as ever (even those who were vaguely in favor of the hub).
There was a Jimmy Cliff song called “Sitting in Limbo.” One of the lines goes, “…waiting for the dice to roll…” Well, here we all are. Plenty of time for soul-searching.
Or is it too late?
Two postscripts… more (unedited) comments from the petition website. They speak for themselves… One from a Jamaican, another from a scientist who has done much research in Jamaica and across the Caribbean.
This is pure natural beauty in it’s natural state, why provoke it? It help protect the main land shore land from storm surges and have some rare fauna and flora not seen anywhere else on the island and are breed ground for animals. I love my country very much and it means so much to me and others out there. We need to protect what we have left that is ours. When we destroy it for cash, what do we have left? and just imagine the consequences yet to come if we do so. Life is so precious and what we have others around the world would love to have what we are taking for granted. Please save the little beauty we have. - Andrae Treleven
As Executive Director of the nonprofit Avian Research and Conservation Institute in Gainesville, Florida, USA, I believe the trans-shipping port in Portland Bight would undoubtedly be harmful and potentially destructive to the ecology and large numbers of birds of many species that rely on the Portland Bight. This area, quite justifiably, is recognized internationally as being of great conservation significance to a high diversity of species, not only birds. This is yet another reason Jamaica has gained recognition internationally for having high regard for protecting vital natural resources. I respectfully implore you to identify all possible alternatives to damaging this ecosystem of international acclaim and importance. - Kenneth D. Meyer, Ph.D.
For more information, please contact:
Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (CCAM): Brandon Hay, Scientific Officer. Tel: (876) 382-8543
Jamaica Environment Trust (JET): Diana McCaulay, CEO. Tel: (876) 469-1315
Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT): Robert Stephens, Chairman. Tel: (876) 873-8191
Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC): Jeanette Calder, Acting Executive Director. Tel: (876) 878-3778
Professor Byron Wilson, Department of Life Sciences, UWI. Tel: (876) 870-2392
Dr Kurt McLaren, Department of Life Sciences, UWI. Tel: (876) 399-2315
Here are some of the important scientific studies that Dr. Douglas did not consider for his scoping study – omitted from the literature review:
Wilson, B. S. (2011). Conservation of Jamaican amphibians and reptiles. Conservation of Caribbean Island Herpetofaunas, 2, 273-310.
Davis, Suzanne Mae Camille, “Rethinking Biodiversity Conservation Effectiveness and Evaluation in the National Protected Areas Systems of Tropical Islands: The Case of Jamaica and the Dominican Republic” (2010). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive).
Tietze, U., Haughton, M., & Siar, S. V. (Eds.). (2006). Socio-economic indicators in integrated coastal zone and community-based fisheries management: case studies from the Caribbean (No. 491). FAO.
Cesar, H., & Chong, C. K. (2004). Economic Valuation and Socioeconomics of Coral Reefs: Methodological issues and three case studies. Economic Valuation and Policy Priorities for Sustainable Management of Coral Reefs, 14-40.
Linton, D., Jones, L., & Edwards, P. (2003). Preliminary Report of Coral Reef Monitoring of the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA). Centre for Marine Sciences, 10.
Wilson, B. S., & Vogel, P. (2000). A survey of the herpetofauna of the Hellshire Hills, Jamaica, including the rediscovery of the Blue-tailed Galliwasp (Celestus duquesneyi Grant). Caribbean Journal of Science, 36(3/4), 244-249.
Cesar, H. S. J., Öhman, M. C., Espeut, P., & Honkanen, M. (2000). An economic valuation of Portland Bight, Jamaica: an integrated terrestrial and marine protected area. Working paper 00/03, Institute for Environmental Studies, Free University, Amsterdam.
Cesar, H., Ohman, M. C., Espeut, P., & Honkanen, M. (2000). Economic Valuation of an Integrated Terrestrial and Marine Protected Area: Jamaica’s Portland Bight. Collected Essays on the Economics of Coral Reefs. CORDIO. Kalmar University, Kalmar, Sweden, 203-214.
Lazell, J. (1996). Careening Island and the Goat Islands: Evidence for the arid–insular invasion wave theory of dichopatric speciation in Jamaica. Contributions to West Indian Herpetology: A Tribute to Albert Schwartz, 195-205.
Vogel, Peter (1994). Evidence of reproduction in a remnant population of the endangered Jamaican iguana, Cyclura collei (Lacertilia: Iguanidae). Caribbean Journal of Science, 30(3-4), 234-241.
Woodley, J. D. (1980). Survival of the Jamaican iguana, Cyclura collei. Journal of Herpetology, 45-49.
ALL MEDIA and other interested persons, please do attend this important and informative meeting tomorrow in Kingston. Thank you! (PLEASE share with anyone who may be interested in attending).
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6TH, 2013 at 10.00 AM
AT EARTH HOUSE, 11 WATERLOO ROAD, KINGSTON 10
Following the release of the environmental scoping study done by Conrad Douglas & Associates on the proposed Goat Islands transshipment sport in the Portland Bight Protected Area, we invite the media to attend a press briefing at the offices of the Jamaica Environment Trust, Earth House, 11 Waterloo Road, Kingston 10 at 10.00 am.
There will be a panel of experts on hand to answer questions about the scoping study and the review and approvals process.
Brandon Hay, Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation
Diana McCaulay, Jamaica Environment Trust
- http://www.portjam.com/PortJam/documents/PORTLAND%20BIGHT%20SUMMARY.pdf Summary of the Environmental Management Scoping of the Portland Bight Area, Inclusive of the Goat Islands: Port Authority of Jamaica
- Port Authority Refuses To Disclose The MoU Regarding the Logistics Hub and Port Development (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Support for the Campaign to Protect Goat Islands is Growing (petchary.wordpress.com)
- How Jamaicans Feel About the Portland Bight Protected Area (petchary.wordpress.com)
- An Open Letter to Minister Robert Pickersgill (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Interpreting Jamaican Heritage Through Birds: the Caribbean Birding Trail (petchary.wordpress.com)
- Flotilla to the Goat Islands (dwayneksmith.wordpress.com)
I spent the weekend in a different world: where the scent of suntan lotion fills the air, and nice, sanitized reggae music fills the air. Yes, I was in the massive (and I mean huge) complex that is the Gran Bahia Principe on Jamaica’s fair north coast. But actually, good to be back home…
Mountain View troubles: Just a couple of weeks ago I visited the Jacques Road area of Mountain View. People were getting on with their lives, the Homework Centre was open. Francena and other community leaders were doing great work with much support. It is really extremely sad to hear of the problems in the area, which began a week ago with the police shooting a teenager in the Jarrett Lane area, some distance down the road. But roadblocks and unrest have continued all of this week, and gang activity seems to have started up again. Just over a year ago, the police killed another teen (and leading light in the police youth club there) Kavorne Shue, in the same area. The pain of that death still lingers; and there are now allegations of police brutality in the area. How will all this help to reduce our rate of violent crime?
And Minister Bunting, to be honest, we don’t need a “forum” on violence prevention. Unless it is going to lead to an action plan that will lead to…action. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48995 And now the Minister has also expressed concern about the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), who investigate police killings, because they actually take away the policemen’s guns. He echoed the Police Federation’s recent complaints. Surely in any investigation into a gun crime, all the guns must be taken for examination? See here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131031/lead/lead5.html
INDECOM says the police killed 15 Jamaicans in September – and 35 in October. Well, the Police Commissioner did warn us that the police will not be “delicate”… Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead7.html The INDECOM Commissioner has also clarified the situation re: the “seizing” of guns from the police at crime scenes – an accusation the Minister seemed so eager to back up. So between the police rank and file and the Minister himself, there is a lot of chipping away at the authority of a Commission established by Government. How does this help us as we search for justice for all? And why is the Minister not clear on the role and responsibilities of INDECOM?
The enigma that is Minister Bunting: In my last post I suggested that he is impersonal and lacking in empathy towards the victims of crime. No expressions of regret for the most terrible crimes seem to pass his lips. I’m trying to figure out the mindset, but he is an enigma. I would not like to think that he is quite comfortable with the daily horrors. Here is what some Observer readers think: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/-How-s-the-praying-thing-going–Mr-Bunting–_15362955
But I am not letting the Opposition Spokesman off the hook: Mr. Delroy Chuck seems to have had a rush of blood to the head and agrees with Minister Bunting that strong measures must be taken to curb crime. And I quote: “I have heard it from persons who believe that the problem of crime is a social one and if you put in enough social reform and enough social intervention you can curb the crime problem. It nuh work.” So by inference, you do not believe the problem of crime is a social issue, Mr. Chuck? You once used to talk quite a bit of sense… Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/news/news5.html
The dynamic duo of Bunting and Chuck (chair and member, respectively, of the joint select committee considering anti-gang legislation) also gave short shrift to human rights lawyer Nancy Anderson of the Norman Manley Law School. Ms. Anderson pointed out that a part of the proposed law is in violation of the (already flawed) Charter of Rights, passed three years ago. Oh no, but strong measures are needed to fight the scourge of gangs, etc., chorused Minister B and Mr. C.Here we are: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/news/news6.html
In just a few months this year, the National Water Commission (NWC) has lost J$3.5 billion. Staggering, especially when you consider that this abominably wasteful and inefficient government agency has just been granted a rate increase that we, the consumers, must pay. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131031/lead/lead1.html Moreover, the head of the NWC has just resigned, to take up a position as head of…the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), which reviews rates and just approved this latest increase. Well, I never. (The Sunday Gleaner came up with a decent editorial at last, reminding politicians of their responsibility. Read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/cleisure/cleisure1.html
Do read our revered columnist Barbara Gloudon’s vivid first-hand account of a teen party she literally ran into recently here: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Stranded-in-an-over-sexed-age_15362857 Meanwhile Talk Up Yout,‘ a UNICEF-sponsored project, is urging us not to judge the young people too hastily, after the viral video of Maggotty High School students disporting themselves (two years ago). Read their views here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/letters/letters6.html
Parenting is “in”: Parenting workshops and parenting centers are breaking out all over these days, as both government and non-governmental agencies try to find a solution to the “uncontrollable” behavior of our young adults, among other social ills. I hope they will help to shore up the crumbling family structures that exist in many of our communities; so many children have very little they can call family. Read more about one project: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Whitfield-Town-teen-moms–dads-learn-parenting-skills_15362607
Bobbing and weaving: An item in the business news notes that Jamaicans will spend close to J$1 billion this year on imported weaves. Yes, weaves…fake hair. I choked when I read this. One person in the business observes, “Fake hair is not necessary for survival (er, no ma’am) but has become a staple for many women.” So this is where all our foreign exchange is going. While the economy is collapsing around them, women cannot – must not – do without their fake hair, wigs and even eyelashes! Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/business/Jamaica-s-weave-imports-set-to-hit–1-billion-in-2013_15362696#ixzz2jQpIJ0Ua
Zero out of ten to Mr. Gordon Robinson for his pathetic response to Diana McCaulay’s brilliant critique of his column on the Portland Bight Protected Area (Goat Islands etc). The sexism is absolutely nauseating. He describes Ms. McCaulay as “the subject of every pimply nerd’s wet dreams,” among other things. Mr. Robinson, a lawyer by profession, would say this is humorous, and anyone who disagrees just has no sense of fun. Yes, the most offensive racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic comments are often disguised as “humor,” actually. If you can stomach it, read here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/focus/focus1.html
Meanwhile, our silent Prime Minister is in Japan. I do hope she is enjoying her trip. “No problem, mon!” (I have been influenced by my tourism experience this weekend, clearly…) I am tired of asking the same questions: how many people accompanied her (“her support staff and security team”)? And did they all travel first class, as Ms. Simpson Miller always does? What is to be achieved by this visit? Will we, the taxpayers footing the bill for this long-distance journey, be granted a report on the results of the visit?
Three cheers for the following:
- USAID: USAID Jamaica – which celebrated 52 years of foreign assistance on Friday, November 1 – recently graduated 98 youth across the island from training in climate change adaptation – an important, even urgent concern that we should all be paying attention to. Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead8.html and http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/98-graduate-from-Climate-Change-Action-Training-programme
- My former boss, Ian Randle, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies (UWI) recently. Here is an edited version of the speech he gave at UWI’s St. Augustine campus in Trinidad: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead99.html
- Petre Williams-Raynor, the excellent environmental journalist now with Panos Caribbean, who is highly focused, well-informed and has a consistently high level of output. She has written here on climate change adaptation: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/news/news1.html And in her blog here following Friday’s fascinating seminar on disaster preparedness for the disabled community in Portmore (more on that later): http://wordsfrompetre.webs.com/apps/blog/entries/show/34882533-disasters-and-the-disabled
Meanwhile, the police continue to inflict “strong measures” on the Jamaican people. They shot dead two teenage brothers on the first day of the month. A mentally ill man was severely beaten in the Falmouth police lock-up on October 19, and is lying in hospital with serious head injuries. INDECOM is investigating. And a mob chopped and beat to death a teenager in Hanover, who was also said to be “of unsound mind.” My sad condolences to all those left behind to mourn the deaths of the following Jamaican citizens who lost their lives to violence in the past four days:
Javore Elleston, 14, Riverton City, Kingston
“Mattic Head,” Torrington Park, Kingston
“Strado,” Seaview Gardens, Kingston
Sophia Dawson, 46, Dyke Road/Portmore, St. Catherine
Dennis Martin, 31, Norwood, St. James
Gregory Black, 35, St. James
Ojay Gardner, 18, Chigwell, Hanover (mob killing)
Omar Taylor, Havana Heights, Clarendon
Markland Drysdale, 40, Cow Bay/Albion, St. Thomas
Killed by police:
Odane Myers, 21, Russia/Savannah-la-Mar, Westmoreland
Lewishon Campbell 17, Mt. Salem, St. James
Romario Campbell, 19, Mt. Salem, St. James
Additional articles of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead1.html Feeding Jamaica, no problem: Gleaner
http://newsandviewsbydjmillerja.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/jamaica-masters-of-crisis-management/ Jamaica: Masters of Crisis Management: newsandviewsbydjmiller
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131101/lead/lead96.html Chuck: Changing Article 45 will “Jamaicanize” region: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131103/lead/lead3.html Children stuck in horror: health-care workers recount haunting tales of sex abuse of kids: Sunday Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Maroon-chief-to-add-voice-to-international-exchange-on-indigenous-issues Maroon chief to add voice to international exchange on indigenous issues: Jamaica Observer
It’s been a sad and nostalgic Sunday for me, with the news that one of my truest, fiercest musical icons, Lou Reed, passed away this morning. OK, that dates me, I know. But I spent half the day rummaging through YouTube, endlessly replaying the dark, gritty and sometimes melodic sounds of Velvet Underground, and Lou. What a remarkable songwriter he was, too.
Meanwhile, I knew it was only a matter of time before the Riverton City dump (no, it’s not a landfill) caught fire. Today firefighters were trying to save people’s homes, made of board and zinc. If you have never been there – you should. It is not a place for anyone to live.
Seems everyone is running off to China these days: Education Minister Ronald Thwaites is trying to get China to take some of our trained teachers that we don’t have jobs for. I’m all for Jamaicans learning more languages, but why would Chinese people want to come all the way here to learn English? And the highly-favored Mayor of May Pen, Scean Barnswell – that’s right, the Mayor who sees no reason to resign – has been off to an agritourism conference in – yes, you’ve guessed it, China. Three questions: Who pays for these trips? What is the cost of a return flight to China (first class? Since our Prime Minister always travels first class I expect her officials/ministers do too?) And thirdly, what the blazes is agritourism? Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/lead/lead5.html and http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news8.html
It took the murder of a young Woman Special Constable for our National Security Minister Peter Bunting to open his mouth and speak about our horrible murder rate, which has simply taken off this month. In my next post, I will do a quick tally and give you a rough idea of the number of murders for October. Even after the National Heroes Day bloodbath Minister Bunting said not a word, until this poor young woman was killed. At least he did say that every death was a tragedy, whether a policeman/woman or not.
Are you as weary as I am with the Jamaica Labour Party leadership race? It seems to be dragging on interminably. When is their conference? I know the date changed. Oh, it’s November 3. Good. I am really tired of nightly TV news items of men and women in various shades of green sitting in school classrooms at tiny little desks they can hardly fit into while Mr. Holness or Mr. Shaw, sweating profusely, tries to get some excitement going with a microphone. (These are delegates’ meetings). The Sunday Gleaner reports here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/latest/article.php?id=48913
No endorsement: By the way, G2K (the JLP’s young professionals arm, and a very effective political entity in many ways) is not endorsing either candidate. President Floyd Green says, “While we expect that our members will be actively involved in either campaign, their views and expressions of support are personal.” I think that’s fair enough.
Oh no, I got it wrong: The JLP conference is on November 10! Two more weeks? Well, we will just have to brave it out a bit longer… The end is in sight
Goat Islands alert: The Ministry of Industry, Investment & Commerce will be holding what appears to be a closed-doors, highly-priced forum on the logistics hub, excluding the average Jamaican, for the private sector, on November 12. I wonder if the media will be allowed in. This coincides with a meeting of the Iguana Specialist Group at Hope Zoo – including many representatives from the United States, Australia and elsewhere. Why is this meeting not open to the public? Your guess is as good as mine. Also, Minister of Everything Omar Davies says an announcement will be made in the Lower House (possibly Tuesday) on the preliminary report into the use of Goat Islands. See here: http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/findings-of-goat-islands-study-to-be-released-this-week. And last week a group of European diplomats toured the Portland Bight Protected Area and “congratulated” the Government on its concern for the environment, while touring mangrove restoration projects that the EU funded. Some subtle (not so subtle?) messages here, I think! Read more here: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131027/news/news5.html
And the tiefing continues… In some communities the latest ruse by the light thieves is to connect to street lights to steal their electricity. As a result, whole neighborhoods are plunged in darkness, thus encouraging more crime. In other communities, the theft of copper wiring from LIME installations is becoming a regular nightmare. Whenever it happens, residents’ phones and Internet services disappear, and LIME loses millions. Is the police aware of any of this and why can’t they do something about it? Read more: http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/No-light-matter__15314255 and http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/scrap-metal-federation-distances-itself-from-theft-of-limes-copper-cables
Holiday for students of Oracabessa Primary: Students at this school got a few unexpected days’ holiday after it was discovered that the place became infested by fleas over the long holiday weekend. Some stray dogs lolling about in the cellar were blamed. I found the reports baffling. The cleaning ladies swore that they kept the building spotless, while the Principal mumbled something quite meaningless. Two days after the weekend, the problem remained. I hope the students are back at school tomorrow.
A little more “ruly”: I know that’s not a real word… The unruly students of the Half Way Tree Transport Centre in Kingston have been tamed…for now, according to the Jamaica Observer. I have a feeling that this story might recur in the future though. A bit like the Riverton City dump fire story.
A change of heart: Mr. Damion “Build, build, build” Crawford, the Junior Tourism Minister, was once much more environmentally aware, it seems. When interviewed for the Gleaner’s tourism supplement some years ago along with environmentalist Wendy Lee, a more youthful (and he would now say, perhaps, naïve?) Crawford declared: “For a tropical country whose tourism relies totally on the state of its natural environment, we are not even close to adhering to even our own national standards…In many cases, environmental impact assessments are not being done where they are required, solid waste management remains poor and there continues to be widespread dumping of sewage in the sea.” Oh, how people change when they obtain political office! You can read the article here: http://hospitalityjamaica.com/20080514/environ2.html (Oh, will an environmental impact assessment be done on Goat Islands, one wonders?)
Jamaicans need beaches: Last Sunday I referred to Archbishop Howard Gregory’s excellent column on access to beaches (or the lack thereof, in most cases) with particular reference to Little Dunn’s River, which has been summarily closed by the Urban Development Corporation because of illegal activities allegedly taking place there. This is not the way to do it. Our recreational spaces (and opportunities to enjoy what’s left of our beautiful coastline) are becoming fewer and fewer. I understand that church leaders and concerned residents in the Ocho Rios area are not going to take this one lightly. Think again, UDC!
Some things I have not heard much about lately… *Trafigura *Medical tourism *The Tivoli Commission of Enquiry – date!
Note to Television Jamaica: I am not impressed by your new practice of airing rather poor video footage of a radio discussion program on RJR earlier in the day as “news” every Sunday evening. I know TVJ and RJR are part of the same media group, but this is lame and doesn’t work. It also just seems very lazy. What works for radio does not always work for television, does it? Or don’t you know that?
Speaking of “lame”… The Gleaner’s editorials are becoming more and more limply apologetic. The Sunday Gleaner editorial this week (“The PM’s next step”) left me dumbfounded. Stunned, even. It reads like an essay by a high school student who has copied some nice-sounding words from the Internet, with grammatical errors and politely meaningless clichés thrown in. What planet are you living on, Mr/Ms Gleaner editor? Here is the link: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131027/cleisure/cleisure1.html
Recommended from elsewhere… I came across a great TED talk by one of my heroes, Jane Goodall, about “How humans and animals can live together.” Here’s the link. It’s food for thought, allow yourself twenty minutes to watch and I think you will enjoy it: http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_goodall_at_tedglobal_07.html
For those who want to delve into history and learn more about the descendants of the Tainos across our region (yes, there are still descendants), this is a fascinating read: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/What-Became-of-the-Taino.html
Sunday kudos to:
- Digicel Foundation who pulled off another tremendous Night Run/Walk downtown on Saturday night. I understand that an astonishing 7,500 Jamaicans participated. This was the second such fundraising event. I hope (and believe) they raised lots of money for Jamaicans – adults and children – with special needs. Congraulations!
- I Believe Initiative for their marvelous National Youth Conference last Thursday. I wrote about it over the weekend. I Believe chose the three speakers well, and I think many of those young people attending were inspired. It was good to see them actively participating in discussions, too. Here’s my article: http://petchary.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/helping-our-youth-to-believe-in-themselves/
- JPS Foundation for their “model school” projects. CEO Kelly Tomblin (looking very jazzy in a pink dress and white-framed sunglasses) broke ground at the Falmouth Basic School this week. The relatively new Foundation’s focus is education and youth leadership. Good for them!
- Hampton School, an excellent girls’ boarding school in rural St. Elizabeth, which is “going green.” And more thanks to Digicel Foundation for supporting this forward-thinking effort. I do hope more schools – and in particular, government offices – will follow suit. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131026/lead/lead6.html
- The Jamaican organizations who have just received grants from the U.S. Embassy under the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Small Grants Program administered by the U.S. Department of State: Eve for Life, Mustard Seed Communities, National Council on Drug Abuse, Caribbean Community of Retired Persons and BREDS – the Treasure Beach Foundation.
It has been an especially horrible week, and the sadness continues, every day, relentlessly. I am going to start posting photos of those murdered, where available. So that we know they are real people, not statistics. Their grieving families and friends know they are people, and I send my sympathies to all.
Unidentified man, Arnett Gardens, Kingston
Jason Armstrong, Conway Road, Kingston 11
Jason Mais, 19, Mud Town, St. Andrew
“Indian,” August Town, St. Andrew
Special Constable Arianna Henry, 23, Portmore, St. Catherine
Gavin Huggins, Frazers Content, St. Catherine
Unidentified man, Burke Road, Spanish Town, St. Catherine
Pixiean Brandford, 23, Harker’s Hall, St. Catherine (on October 21)
Glendon Clarke, West End, Negril, Westmoreland
Tashman Stevenson, 32, Mount Carey, St. James
Leo Oldfield, 44, Mount Carey, St. James
Unidentified woman, Adelphi, St. James
Tedroy Logie, 28, Vineyard, St. Elizabeth
Killed by police:
Marlando Brown, 35, Waltham Park Road, Kingston
Jermaine Foote, 24, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Omar Reid, Grange Hill, Westmoreland
Some other items of interest:
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/lead/lead1.html Best in the Caribbean: Ardenne outshines the region in CAPE: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness–Murder-rate-unacceptable_15318697 Holness: Murder rate unacceptable: Jamaica Observer
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news3.html Gravel Heights residents return after fleeing community: Gleaner
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/cleisure/cleisure1.html If the police want new powers… Gleaner editorial
http://www.minority-insight.org/2013/10/lesbian-harassed-and-then-shot-by.html Lesbian harassed and then shot by Jamaican police: minorityinsight.org
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Golding-willing-to-testify-at-Tivoli-Enquiry–but_15332632 Golding willing to testify at Tivoli Enquiry, but… Sunday Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Soldiers-in-Keith-Clarke-murder-for-trial-next-March Soldiers in Keith Clarke murder for trial next March: Jamaica Observer
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/letters/Tell-us-what-jobs-the–hub–wil-bring_15306431 Tell us what jobs the hub will bring: Letter to the Jamaica Observer
http://kentgammon.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/article-the-wada-extraordinary-doping-audit-for-jamaica-is-it-significant-to-jamaicas-sporting-reputation/ The WADA extraordinary doping audit for Jamaica: Is it significant for Jamaica’s sporting reputation? Kent Gammon blog
http://www.jis.gov.jm/news/leads-100/35422 Campion gets new library and media center: Jamaica Information Service
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20131025/news/news4.html Bustamante Children’s Hospital cardiac wing to be completed early 2014: Gleaner
http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Smoking-ban-will-move-Jamaica-towards-developed-country-status—-Ferguson Smoking ban will move Jamaica towards developed country status – Ferguson: Jamaica Observer