The Cockpit Country’s Majestic Presence

Members of BirdLife Jamaica (I am proud to be one) have sent this letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Minister Daryl Vaz and to the local newspapers. The italics are mine, and the beautiful photographs are by BirdLife member, bird guide and passionate conservationist Wendy Lee.

The endemic Jamaican Tody. (Photo: Wendy Lee)

Dear Prime Minister:

Members of BirdLife Jamaica, a 56-year-old environmental non-governmental organisation, join our voices with others seeking to persuade our Government to uphold the spirit of the Prime Minister’s declaration that no mining would be permitted within the Cockpit Country.

A female Jamaican Becard sits near her nest. Yes – that is their nest, a kind of drapery. It could qualify as an “installation” at the National Gallery of Art. And yes, this charming bird is only found in Jamaica, as the name suggests, and a Cockpit Country resident. (Photo: Wendy Lee)

We are not specifically scientists or geographers but our focus on Jamaica’s unique bird life has connected us with the Cockpit Country. Many of us have spent time in it over the past half-century, walked its trails, and felt its immensity. It is the ultimate sanctuary for all but one of Jamaica’s 30 endemic bird species.

So we know it well and approach it with the reverence it deserves, its majestic presence unchanged by humanity. And so it should remain, all of it.

The endemic Black-billed Parrot (endemic meaning it lives ONLY in Jamaica and nowhere else in the world). Its largest populations are in Cockpit Country. (Photo: Wendy Lee)
Birding in Cockpit Country. The potential for eco-tourism, including bird tourism, is a “no-brainer.” The Caribbean Birding Trail established by BirdsCaribbean includes several sections of Cockpit Country NOT included in the proposed “Cockpit Country Protected Area.” (Photo: Wendy Lee)

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