BirdsCaribbean Welcomes News of Proposed Jamaican Wildlife Sanctuary

Great Goat Island (foreground) and Little Goat Island.
Great Goat Island (foreground) and Little Goat Island.

BirdsCaribbean, the region’s largest conservation organization, warmly welcomes news that the Government of Jamaica is planning to establish a Wildlife Sanctuary at Goat Islands, in the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA).

“This is a great Christmas gift to Jamaican and international campaigners, who have advocated in recent years to have Goat Islands protected,” said Lisa Sorenson, Executive Director of BirdsCaribbean. “We wish to congratulate Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ administration for this bold and forward-thinking move.”

Sorenson pointed out that the PBPA was designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) and Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by BirdLife International. “These are nature’s biodiversity hotspots,” noted Sorenson. “Goat Islands include important and threatened habitats for birds and other species, especially its pristine mangrove systems and dry limestone forest.”

BirdsCaribbean also warmly commended the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET), under the leadership of Diana McCaulay, for its determined advocacy, as well as the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), supporters and advocates from all walks of life. “Diana McCaulay is a staunch defender of Jamaica’s environment,” said Sorenson. “We wish her all the best in her retirement and look forward to working with JET’s incoming CEO Suzanne Stanley, and with all our Jamaican partners in 2018.”

West Indian Whistling Ducks are a threatened regional endemic, resident in the PBPA. They have been declining in Jamaica due to loss of wetland habitat.
West Indian Whistling Ducks are a threatened regional endemic, resident in the PBPA. They have been declining in Jamaica due to loss of wetland habitat.

The PBPA, including Goat Islands, is home to 17 endemic birds (found only in Jamaica) and many resident birds, such as the West Indian Whistling Duck – one of the most threatened waterfowl in the Western Hemisphere Endemic species include: Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Jamaican Oriole, Jamaican Owl, Jamaican Tody, Sad Flycatcher, Jamaican Spindalis and Jamaican Mango. The area is a critical refuge for numerous neotropical migrants, including ducks, warblers, waterbirds, shorebirds and seabirds, that spend the winter or stop off in the area.

“The Caribbean islands are fragile, and increasingly vulnerable to climate change impacts, as well as human activities such as tourism and housing developments. This has been a very difficult year for Caribbean birds on numerous islands, after two devastating hurricanes. We are delighted by this positive news as the year draws to a close,” said Sorenson.

By Emma Lewis, Blogger, Writer and Online Activist, based in Kingston, Jamaica. Follow Emma at Petchary’s Blog—Cries from Jamaica.

Thanks to all of our members and partners that have supported us in this campaign through writing letters, signing petitions, spreading the word with your networks, and more. Your efforts have paid off and we thank you! – Lisa Sorenson

Read about the decision to save Goat Islands from development in 2016:

Goat Islands Saved! Conservationists Warmly Welcome Jamaican Government Decision Against Transshipment Port in Protected Area