As we are all aware, the process of greater collaboration between the United States and Cuba is ongoing – step by step. This is already changing the dynamics in this corner of the world. Here in Jamaica, it was remarkable to see U.S. Ambassador Luis Moreno sharing a toast with the Prime Minister and his Cuban colleague at Cuba’s National Day celebrations.
Meanwhile, a recently signed Joint Statement on Environmental Protection is a timely and welcome sign that the two nations will work together on important issues. The regional non-governmental organization BirdsCaribbean is very happy with this development, which will allow much greater scientific collaboration as it works to protect the Caribbean islands’ bird populations. As for me – I am looking forward to the 21st International Meeting in Cuba next year – armed with binoculars and Nils Navarro’s recently published field guide. Here is BirdsCaribbean’s press release:
January 21, 2016—BirdsCaribbean warmly welcomes the news that the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba on November 24, 2015 signed a Joint Statement on Environmental Protection that creates a framework for cooperation on a number of pressing issues, including the protection of endangered species and their habitats, the prevention of wildlife trafficking and the protection of migratory bird species. The U.S. Department of State will be encouraging agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to work with its Cuban counterparts at the Ministerio de Ciencia Tecnologia y Medio Ambiente (CITMA) on this new arrangement, which is a reflection of the new openness and diplomatic ties between the two nations.
Judith G. Garber, Acting Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, responded positively to a letter from BirdsCaribbean’s Executive Director Dr. Lisa Sorenson, urging deeper cooperation to protect Cuba’s bird life and biodiversity. Coincidentally, the cooperation agreement was signed on the same day that Ms. Garber received Dr. Sorenson’s letter, which notes that the organization’s 21st International Meeting will take place in Cuba in July 2017.
BirdsCaribbean has been working with and supporting research and conservation activities in Cuba for a number of years, to the limited extent allowed, including collaborations with professors and students at the University of Havana. In her letter, Dr. Sorenson points out that both Cuba and the U.S. are signatories to several important international agreements on environmental protection, including the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) and others. There are many shared interests and concerns, and strengthened ties can only benefit both countries’ efforts to protect their environments in the face of many common challenges, including climate change.
Cuba is a treasure trove of biodiversity, including its birds. Three hundred seventy one bird species have been recorded in Cuba; 26 of these are endemic to the island and 30 are considered globally threatened. Cuba is also a crucial stopover point for over 180 Neotropical migratory bird species that fly to and from the U.S. every year, resting and refueling or spending up to nine months wintering in Cuba. BirdsCaribbean regards the trade in caged birds and the loss of habitat from development as two major threats to migratory bird populations and a critical area of conservation focus on the island.
Cuban scientists made a number of presentations at BirdsCaribbean’s 20th International Meeting in Kingston, Jamaica in July 2015, when artist and conservationist Nils Navarro launched his ground-breaking publication, “Endemic Birds of Cuba: A Comprehensive Field Guide.” The U.S.-Cuba agreement will be beneficial to many academics and institutions in the country, opening up a new era in communication and cooperation for the conservation of migratory and threatened endemic birds.
For more information, and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Dr. Leo Douglas, President, BirdsCaribbean
Scott Johnson, Chairperson, Media Working Group, BirdsCaribbean.
BirdsCaribbean is a vibrant international network of members and partners committed to conserving Caribbean birds and their habitats. We raise awareness, promote sound science, and empower local partners to build a region where people appreciate, conserve and benefit from thriving bird populations and ecosystems. We are a non-profit (501 (c) 3) membership organization. More than 100,000 people participate in our programmes each year, making BirdsCaribbean the most broad-based conservation organization in the region. You can learn more about us, our work, and how to join at: http://www.birdscaribbean.org.