Please Help Bird Conservationists in the Caribbean After Two Dreadful Hurricanes

BirdsCaribbean is reeling after the onslaught of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, this hateful month of September, 2017. As I write, Puerto Rico, Culebra, and Vieques, the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas are all under Hurricane Warning, as Hurricane Maria continues to batter Puerto Rico.

BirdsCaribbean is an island network of dedicated partners on the ground. They are conservationists, scientists, local non-governmental organisations. Many are volunteer-driven and already operating with limited resources – much passion, much love, not so much funding. Now, many of our partners – from Guadeloupe to St. Martin, from Dominica to Puerto Rico – are feeling the effects (for some of them, a “double whammy”). Many are without water and electricity and much damage has been done to their offices, crippling their ability to go out and assess the harm that has been done to our beautiful Caribbean birds…

If you love Caribbean birds and the people who study and work for their conservation in an increasingly turbulent world, please support BirdsCaribbean’s fund-raising effort – in any way you can, and no matter how small – via their crowd-funding page. Please see the text on the page below:

Please help our colleagues working to protect birds and restore habitat on the islands that suffered the devastation of Irma’s catastrophic force. They desperately need your support as Hurricane Maria heads towards them.

Irma’s carnage is heartbreaking. Video from Cuba’s northern Cays shows thousands of flamingos that were killed outright by this intense storm. Dead fish lay amongst dead and dying flamingos whose graceful wings, legs and necks were damaged beyond repair.

In Barbuda, where almost every building was left uninhabitable, the human population has since been evacuated.  Aerial footage reveals complete environmental disaster. Barbuda’s Codrington Lagoon, a RAMSAR site that hosted the region’s largest colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds (approx. 2,500 pairs), was breached.  We don’t know the colony’s status.

The Barbuda Warbler. (Photo courtesy of Ted Eubanks)

On Barbuda, satellite imagery shows us that Irma destroyed almost all the vegetation that small birds need to escape the winds. We do not know if the endemic Barbuda Warbler, a Near Threatened species has survived.  Our colleagues have already returned to conduct assessments on the island but their first surveys have found no warblers nor any West Indian Whistling-Ducks!

Across the islands that took the brunt of the storm the damage is earth-shattering. Trees were uprooted or left denuded of all fruit and leaves. Riverbanks were scoured and neighborhoods left in flood-stricken shambles. Inland there are threats of landslides. Damage to mangroves, reefs, seagrass beds and beaches mean birds will lose their nesting habitat, shelter and food.

Across the islands that took the brunt of the storm the damage is earth-shattering. Trees were uprooted or left denuded of all fruit and leaves. Riverbanks were scoured and neighborhoods left in flood-stricken shambles. Inland there are threats of landslides. Damage to mangroves, reefs, seagrass beds and beaches mean birds will lose their nesting habitat, shelter and food.

Starving Bananaquits flock to bird feeders in St. Martin after Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Mark Yokoyama)

But the Caribbean people and birds are resilient and are striving to recover from Irma. You can help right now as we work to protect the birds, habitats, and island communities.  We are supporting our partner organizations, stabilizing their lives and operations so people can return to the critical post-Irma conservation work.  Your donation is crucial as Hurricane Maria roars through these islands.

In St Martin, the museum of our partner organization, Les Fruits de Mer has been destroyed but Board members, Jean Yerkes and Mark Yokoyama, are digging out of the rubble, feeding the birds, and already planning repairs. This, despite the fact they have lost their house and car and are collecting rainwater in a catchment system while cooking what little food they can get on an open fire pit.

Our Cuban colleagues are working to assess the status of special species of the northern Cays like the Zapata Sparrow sub-species and regionally important populations of American Flamingos and West Indian Whistling-Ducks.

We need to help these hard-working and committed partners carry on their work and replace everything lost in the hurricane— from notepads and binoculars to offices and infrastructure. We need to be financially and physically ready to support their needs as they develop their post-Irma conservation actions.

These islands have been altered for years to come, but you and I can help restore the birds, their habitats and the local communities. By acting today you can help ensure immediate needs will be met and conservation and science will guide the recovery efforts.

Please be as generous as you can and donate today.

Hundreds of flamingos died in Caya Coco, Cuba during the passage of Hurricane Irma. (Photo: Dyanelis Marin Dewar)

3 thoughts on “Please Help Bird Conservationists in the Caribbean After Two Dreadful Hurricanes

  1. A special thanks for this, and I hope there will be many who contribute to the birding fund/funds. Have been thinking of you a lot – this must all be so hard to witness from your way-too-close vantage point.

    Thanks for keeping us informed –
    Lisa

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts, Lisa. Yes – it has been hard (strange) and rather difficult, watching all this happen from the other side of the Caribbean and being totally unaffected by the hurricanes ourselves. So it feels like – yes, we are near but somehow far away.

      Like

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