Good Cayman islands wildlife news


This video is about turnstones on a Cayman islands beach.

From BirdLife:

Caribbean’s dry forest protection expanded

Wed, Jul 17, 2013

The National Trust of the Cayman Islands has acquired 8 more acres to add to the Mastic Reserve, bringing the total amount of land protected by the Trust in the Important Bird Area to 843 acres.

The reserve is home to all of Cayman Islands’ endemic orchids and forest birds including the Near Threatened Vitelline Warbler Dendroica vitellina, White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocepahala and Cuban Amazon Amazona leucocephala. It is additionally the main habitat for a critically endangered variety of Black Mastic tree Termenalia eriostachya var. margaretiae, which is unique to Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands (a UK Overseas Territory). Aiming to protect and rejuvenate a very rare habitat of great importance to Grand Cayman and its biodiversity, the Trust hopes to acquire a total of 1,397 acres, which will cost several million dollars, through additional fundraising for its Land Reserve Fund.

Established in 1992, the Mastic Reserve protects the largest contiguous area of old growth forest remaining on Grand Cayman. Representing some of the last remaining examples of the Caribbean’s lowland semi-deciduous dry forest and home to a unique variety of animals and plants, including all of Cayman’s endemic orchids, trees and birds, the Reserve has high ecological, scenic and ecotourism value.

The area of the Mastic Forest has been above water for more than two million years — as opposed to most of the island, which only emerged 125,000 years ago — so that is where the native flora and fauna evolved, noted National Trust Field Officer, Stuart Mailer. “It’s an island within an island,” he said.

According to “Threatened Plants of the Cayman Islands – The Red List” by Fred Burton, the variety of Black Mastic, Termenalia eriostachya var. margaretiae (named after Margaret Barwick), was once quite widespread on the island, but by 1800 it was thought to have been harvested to extinction for its ebony-like heartwood. However, it was rediscovered in the Mastic Forest in 1991.

The National Trust maintains the Mastic Trail, a traditional path that passes through the heart of the reserve. Guided nature tours of the Trail allow visitors to experience and appreciate this national treasure. The Mastic Trail was recently awarded a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2013, based on reviews by their members.

“The Mastic Reserve IBA is key to the conservation of Cayman Islands biodiversity. Preserving this land is vital in protecting our native plants and animals.  The forest performs many other functions; it enhances rainfall and reduces run-off, helping to maintain our groundwater and protect our reefs and it keeps the island cooler; it removes carbon and pollutants from the atmosphere, and it provides locals and visitors alike with a unique opportunity to connect with nature,” said Mailer, who is a renowned Mastic tour guide.

Guided tours of the Mastic Trail are available Tuesday through Friday, and occasional weekends.  For details on the National Trust’s Land Reserve Fund or guided Mastic tours contact info@nationaltrust.org.ky.

British government neglects overseas territories wildlife


This video is called Saving the Grand Cayman Island Iguana.

From BirdLife:

UK’s most exotic natural treasures under threat from ‘legal neglect’

Tue, Mar 19, 2013

A first-ever analysis of the environmental laws across all 14 of the UK’s Overseas Territories has been published and presented to the British Government. The report, commissioned by the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), reveals serious flaws in the legislation that should protect some of the most important places for UK wildlife.

The assessment comes just nine months after the UK Government published its Overseas Territories White Paper last June. In it, the Prime Minister pledged to ‘cherish the environments’ and ‘help ensure their good government’.

The UK’s Overseas Territories hold some of the world’s most remarkable environments, from pristine tropical forests like on Grand Cayman, to windswept South Atlantic islands, home to penguins and elephant seals, as well as over 90% of the threatened wildlife for which the UK is responsible.

In the new assessment, entitled ‘Environmental Governance in the UK’s Overseas Territories, a number of major gaps in environmental protection are exposed:

Five of the Territories have no Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) requirements for major developments e.g. Cayman Islands, where a major highway is proposed to cut through key old-growth forests home to the endangered blue iguana; and on Scrub Island in Anguilla a $1 billion development proposal has been given the go ahead which will involve cutting this important wildlife island in half and creating an inland marina;
Nine Territories lack strong networks of protected areas or completed implementing legislation, meaning sites such as the Centre Hills forest in Montserrat, home to the critically endangered Mountain Chicken (a giant frog) remain unprotected;
Four Territories have no marine protected areas e.g. Falkland Islands (Las Malvinas), where the development of the offshore oil industry risks pre-empting the establishment of a coherent network of marine protected areas;
In the three uninhabited Territories, where the UK Government has made a commitment to ‘exemplary environmental management’, there is a significant lack of transparency and accountability.

However, there are at least five draft bills (e.g. the Cayman National Conservation Bill 2007, the Anguilla Physical Planning Bill 2001) currently in Overseas Territories’ legislatures that would fill many of the gaps in their environmental legislation, but all have been stalled due to a lack of political will.

Tim Stowe, the RSPB’s Director of International Operations said, “Whilst some of the UK’s Overseas Territories such as Gibraltar have excellent environmental legislation, the gaps uncovered in this analysis are worrying and have the potential to allow damage to the environments and wildlife we are responsible for protecting.

“We hope this review will encourage the UK Government to fulfil its ambitions ‘to set world standards’ in the Overseas Territories and begin a programme of work to strengthen the most pressing gaps in their environmental laws. Major improvements are within reach and much can be achieved without significant additional resources.”

The report offers seven recommendations to help the Prime Minister realise his ambitions on Overseas Territories. Although the report has found a number of gaps in environmental governance, it has also discovered that some of the UK’s Territories are beacons of best practice in terms of environmental legislation. Gibraltar’s environmental legislation was rated as ‘strong’ across the board, whilst the site protection mechanisms of the British Virgin Islands, and development control procedures in St Helena, were also very good.

See also here.

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Pygmy sperm whale beaches in Cayman islands


This video is called Professor Malcolm Clarke talks about his research into Pygmy Sperm Whales.

By Norma Connolly, at cayCompass.com:

Pygmy Sperm Whale washes up at Beach Bay

08 February, 2013

A Pygmy Sperm Whale washed up at Beach Bay Thursday night.

The animal was apparently alive when local residents called to alert the Department of Environment of the stranding, but had died by the time department staff got to the beach.

Tim Austin, department deputy director, and other staff secured the whale at the site overnight.

“It measured 2.75 meters [9 feet] in length and probably weighed around 650 pounds… There were no obvious signs as to why it stranded and died but perhaps the necropsy will tell us more,” said Mr. Austin.

The whale was transported to St. Matthew’s University for a necropsy Friday morning.

The animal had lost skin from lying on the rocks and was bleeding from those wounds.

“It’s not our first stranding of this species, but it is not a common occurrence,” Mr. Austin said.

The Department of Environment has reported the stranding to the Caribbean Stranding Network and US Stranding Network and is collecting samples to assist in regional research and reporting.

“This species lives at sea in deep water feeding on deep water squid and is rarely seen due to its habit of surfacing quietly and slowly and hanging motionless in the water,” said Mr. Austin.

A comment about this, at cayCompass.com:

Posted by Banana Republic on 2/8/2013 2:08:32 PM

Last time this happened I proposed salvaging this rare whale and having the skeletal remains assembled and put on display for public viewing.

The end result was having it towed out to sea and turned into fish bait because the smell offended ‘people’ who were staying along that particular beachfront and demanded immediate relief for their self-centered selves as opposed to saving it for posterity’s sake.

They put their ‘noses’ ahead of this very infrequent opportunity rather than allowing others the chance to see something so scarce.

It’s a given that 99.99 percent of us will never see a live pygmy sperm whale in our lifetimes, along our shores, so let’s take advantage of this situation.

This creature is going along the path of the dinosaurs.

A request to St. Matthew’s University; please don’t throw this one back into the sea or the GT dump.

I’d rather see something rather than nothing.

Cayman islands: trying to save blue iguanas


This video is called Cayman Island Blue Iguanas.

From the BBC:

Conservationists are celebrating success in a captive-breeding programme that aims to save the world’s rarest lizard from extinction.

Three eggs laid by a Grand Cayman blue iguana that had been released into a nature reserve on the Caribbean island have successfully hatched.

Since 2004, 219 captive-bred iguanas have been released in an attempt to save the crtically endangered species.

The wild population of blue iguanas is expected to be extinct within 10 years.

“The animals we released in 2004 are now coming into sexual maturity,” said Matt Goetz, deputy head of herpetology at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

“This year, we were delighted to discover three nests within the nature reserve,” he added.

The Jersey-based trust is one of the six permanent partners of the Blue Iguana Recovery Programme, which has been operating since 1990.

The scheme releases iguanas into the island’s Salina nature reserve when the animals are about two or three years old, once they are large enough not to be eaten by snakes.

“We can now confirm that all three eggs in one of these nests have hatched, which marks a major step forward in securing the survival of these animals,” Mr Goetz said.

“Hopefully, the eggs laid at the other sites will be following suit soon.”

Habitat threat

Blue iguanas (Cyclura lewisi) are classified as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

See also here. And here.

The blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) was once king of the Caribbean Island, Grand Cayman. Weighting in at 25 pounds, measuring over 5 feet, and living for over sixty years, nothing could touch this regal lizard. But then the unthinkable happened: cars, cats, and dogs, along with habitat destruction, dethroned Grand Cayman’s reptilian overlord. The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve: here.

Bringing Back the Blue Iguana: here.

Bahama islands anolis lizards: here.

European common lizards: here.

Komodo dragon’s virgin birth: here.

Blue anoles of Colombia: here.

Ecomorphology of Anolis lizards of the Choco′ region in Colombia and comparisons with Greater Antillean ecomorphs: here.

Fossil animals and plants of the Bahamas: here.

The name Hurricane Hole might conjure images of howling winds and crashing seas. In fact, this collection of bays on the southern shore of St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a sheltered sanctuary whose crystalline waters offer safe haven for young fish: here.