I was inspired to share these photographs with you, my dear readers. As you are no doubt aware, Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area remains threatened by a mega-port, which the Jamaican Government wants China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to build in this beautiful area on Jamaica’s south coast, consisting of pristine mangroves (and yes, I have seen them for myself), fish sanctuaries, dry limestone forest and other increasingly rare and important wildlife habitats). For more about Goat Islands, and to join the campaign against the destruction of this area, go to savegoatislands.org and visit the websites of the Jamaica Environment Trust and the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM).
The always casually dismissive Transport and Works Omar Davies thinks that environmentalists, academics, scientists and researchers are making a fuss about nothing. In Parliament, he offhandedly called one of the most endangered reptiles in the world (restricted to a small area of the Hellshire Hills) and Jamaica’s largest native land animal…“two likkle lizard.” Remember the Jamaican iguana was considered extinct until 1990, when it was rediscovered.
Well, Minister Davies should know that a group of dedicated local and overseas scientists, the Jamaica Iguana Recovery Group (JIRG), has been working hard (for many years) to preserve the habitat in which the animal lives, which is threatened by charcoal burners and other destroyers of trees; to keep predators (local domestic animals) at bay; locating and monitoring nesting sites; building the genetic material of the iguanas; protecting hatchlings and transferring them to the Hope Zoo, where a breeding program is ongoing. This is painstaking, continuous hard work, not to be dismissed with a wave of the hand by a politician who is eager for a big project.
Today, the International Iguana Foundation, a member of the JIRG, tweeted a wonderful photograph from field work they did today. Local Field Technician with JIRG, Kenroy (“Booms“) Williams, returned a Jamaican Iguana into the wild that he had captured and studied. The Foundation noted, “255 JamRock Iguanas released to date. Hope Zoo rears them until they can survive mongoose! Without this work = extinction.” Thank you, all! I am sharing with you some photos shared on social media from this afternoon’s activities..
C-CAM’s notes the Jamaican Iguana “was classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered and was ranked among the world’s 100 most endangered species in 2012.” In other countries, such as the nearby Cayman Islands, the native iguana is considered a visitor attraction and its image appears on tourism posters, etc. Now in Jamaica, Goat Islands could serve as a safe, very peaceful breeding space for the iguanas (it is the same tropical dry forest, which the IUCN describes as “one of the most endangered ecosystems.” But our government officials don’t seem to have heard of the term “eco-tourism.” The whole area could have a natural yoga retreat, non-motorized activists like kayaking, and so much more. Yes, sustainable development!
The Jamaican Iguana is much more than a “likkle lizard,” Minister Davies. If you had any respect for the work of scientists, and for the cultural and natural heritage of our island – the birthright of future generations of Jamaicans – you would know that, and understand.
Let’s start to respect our heritage. Before it is all gone, and we are left with nothing but concrete.
Then we will be poorer, Minister Davies. Not richer.