2008 Grupo Jaragua Field Report

Program to Map and Protect Ricord’s Iguana Critical Nesting Areas

With annual support from the IIF, Grupo Jaragua works to identify critical nesting areas and then protects those sites from being converted for agriculture and illegal land grabs. This year they report huge conflicts in the “Los Olivares” area of Pedernales where illegal agriculture impacts Cyclura nesting. The area is a flat plain with deep soil, known as Fondos, which are used by Cyclura for nesting but are also much coveted by local farmers. There are four major Fondos in this area encompassing 81.5 hectares (ha). Unfortunately, 48 so-called “landowners” claim 421 ha of prime nesting habitat in the Los Olivares region. Nest monitoring of this area resulted in 256 Cyclura ricordii and 43 C. cornuta nests discovered. Grupo Jaragua sees land purchase as the best way to mediate Cyclura and farmer conflicts in the area and funds are being sought for this purpose.

Cyclura ricordii
Cyclura nesting areas near Pedernales. Green: areas checked for C. ricordii. Pink: zones given special attention. Red: parcels with irrigation.
Cyclura ricordii
Charcoal pit near Lago Enriquillo in the south. To make matters worse, water levels in Lago Enriquillo are at historic high levels – potentially threatening the relatively healthy Isla Cabritos populations of Cyclura.

South of Lago Enriquillo, a small 0.5-1.0 km2 area of active dens was found near the town of Jimaní. Charcoal production south of the lake has resulted in massive habitat destruction and illegal hunting of Cyclura, and there is little vegetation left in the area. Charcoal burners dig the Cyclura out of their dens while the charcoal pits are smoldering, and more than 50% of the adult iguana dens in the area have been destroyed in this fashion. C. ricordii has also been reported in the area east of Duverge, but no active dens or sightings were recorded by Grupo Jaragua.

Cyclura ricordii
Excavation hunters use to extract C. ricordii form their burrows.

Most of this charcoal is exported illegally to Haiti. No habitat nearby has legal protection, and Grupo Jaragua has proposed creation of a 179 km2 wildlife reserve in this area near the El Limon Lagoon, which would border the Lago Enriquillo National Park in the north and the La Placa Wildlife Reserve in Haiti.

First record of Ricord’s iguana nesting in Haiti

Grupo Jaragua cooperated with two Haitian NGOs, KOSRA and CIELO, and AGUINAPE and Voluntarios de Jaragua in the Dominican Republic, to document a new C. ricordii nesting area outside Anse-à-Pitres, Haiti. One nest was confirmed and a gravid female was sighted. This was in a sandy strip behind a beach of pebbles approximately one mile outside of Anse-à-Pitres. Hatching was not confirmed at the site due to the difficulty in detecting the entrance holes in the sandy soil. More intense monitoring is planned in this area for the 2009 field season and the IIF has provided funding support for this work.

Cyclura ricordii
Areas surveyed along the southern border of Lago Enriquillo. Red-borders indicate areas devastated by charcoal production. Blue-bordered areas indicate places barely touched for charcoal production.
Cyclura ricordii
Grupo Jaragua field assistants with the first nest of C. ricordii ever found in Haiti.