Interpreting Jamaican Heritage Through Birds: the Caribbean Birding Trail

Please find below a press release from the Caribbean Birding Trail, a project of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds. The CBT’s Interpretive Plan (see link below) is well worth reading and contemplating. It focuses on crucial issues for Jamaica, including tourism and development – and the potential of eco-tourism, which I have touched on in previous articles. It provides options, practical solutions and opportunities to enhance and protect Jamaica’s precious ecological and cultural heritage (such as the Portland Bight Protected Area/Goat Islands, and Cockpit Country) in a sustainable way.

Do contact Holly Robertson directly for further information on the Caribbean Birding Trail and related issues.

Everybody loves a good story. When a story is told well we are engaged and entertained. Chances are that we will walk away remembering what was said and perhaps be transformed by what we heard.

Jamaica is full of stories waiting to be told. Take, for instance, Cockpit Country. Fractured limestone, collapsed caves, undulating hills and valleys, and sinkholes make this region what it is today—an ecosystem and landscape like no other in the world. Cockpit Country supports outstanding biodiversity and species of plants and animals unique to the region. It is also a place of historical significance; the Tainos, Spanish, Africans, British, and Maroons are all integral to the narrative of Cockpit Country. Local legend recounts dramatic battles, mythical warriors, and an unprecedented history of conquest, land seizure, human enslavement, and liberation.

The Caribbean Birding Trail (CBT) seeks to tell these stories and offer interpretation [1] of Caribbean heritage by using the region’s vast cultural and natural resources as the storylines. The CBT is a newly launched initiative by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) [2] with funding from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund. The mission of the CBT is to create and promote nature-based, authentic experiences that engage visitors and locals with the unique birds of the Caribbean and connect them to the extraordinary places, diverse cultures and people of each island.

Critical to the CBT’s mission is its interpretive strategy—a guide for how to tell the story of the region’s abundant biodiversity. Professional interpreter Ted Eubanks of Fermata Inc, worked with the SCSCB over the past year to craft this strategy that has now been made available to the public in a document called The Caribbean Birding Trail – An Interpretive Plan for Seven Key Biodiversity Areas in Grenada, Dominican Republic and Jamaica.

For Jamaica, the SCSCB focused on Cockpit Country and Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA). The PBPA is another area largely unknown to the international – and perhaps local – population. It is the largest protected area in Jamaica and comprises 1,880 square kilometers of dense forests, vibrant wetlands, colorful coral reefs, lush seagrass beds, offshore cays, and human communities that depend on them. The natural and cultural treasures of both Cockpit Country and the PBPA are currently threatened by development schemes. Perhaps the reason is that the story of their value has yet to be told.

The Caribbean Birding Trail Interpretive Plan contains much more than just the interpretive strategy. It also contains an in-depth tourism market analysis of the Caribbean tourism industry, comprehensive Resource Assessments of each Key Biodiversity Area, and recommendations for building capacity and promoting the sites.

Local partners that reviewed the plan are very enthusiastic about being part of the CBT and having this new tool. The next step will be to implement certain recommendations made within the plan for Cockpit Country and the PBPA—actions that will build the capacity of the local communities to raise awareness about the unique ecosystems in which they live and to be able to share this with those fortunate enough to visit these spectacular sites.

The Interpretive Plan can be downloaded from the CBT website at the following link: For more information about how to visit these areas, please visit and look under Sites.


For more information, and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Holly Robertson, Caribbean Birding Trail Project Manager, Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB).  Email: Tel: (608) 698-3448


According to the National Association for Interpretation, interpretation is a mission-based communication process that forges emotional and intellectual connections between the interests of the audience and meanings inherent in the resource. It is a process of conveying information about an interpretive site or resource by telling a story rather than reciting facts. A wide variety of people are involved in the interpretive guide profession, such as tour guides, museum docents, volunteers, cruise directors, naturalists, park rangers, zoo docents, and bus driver guides. For more information, visit Environmental interpretation is often applied to eco-tourism, because travelers seek to learn and connect with the new places they are visiting. Effective interpretation, therefore, can help reveal meanings behind the landscape and help create a lasting memory and experience for visitors, whether local or international.

The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) is the largest single regional organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean. It is a non-profit organization whose goals are to promote the scientific study and conservation of Caribbean birds and their habitats, and to promote greater public awareness of the bird life of the region. For more details, see: &

Captions to the photos below:

Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo. By Ted Eubanks. The Jamaican Lizard-cuckoo is a Jamaican endemic (unique to the island) that can be found in the hills of Cockpit Country.

Jamaican Tody. By Ricardo Miller. A species of bird endemic to Jamaica that can be found throughout the island, from coast to mountains.

Portland Bight Protected Area, by Ted Eubanks.

Cockpit Country, by Ted Eubanks.

Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo


Portland Bight Protected Area_Eubanks

Cockpit Country_Eubanks


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