How The Caribbean Is Reviving Endangered Species

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Thurs. June 13, 2024: The Caribbean is home to many unique animals, from marine mammals to rare lizards. Just as many people head off to the Fisherman’s trail to see White Storks and dolphins, the Caribbeans see a lot of wildlife tourism too. 

Over the years, though, many species faced extinction due to threats like overfishing and pollution. But recent efforts show that the tide is turning and the work is helping these species recover.

Thirty years ago, fewer than 150 White Cay rock iguanas lived on a small island in the Bahamas. Today, there are over 2,000. Conservationists achieved this by removing invasive species like ship rats and raccoons. These invasive animals threatened the iguanas by eating their eggs and young, and so today stand a better chance of survival.

The Antiguan racer snake was once the world’s rarest snake. In 1995, only 50 were left on one small island. Conservationists worked hard to protect these snakes and they ended up relocating them to predator-free islands, which increased numbers to over 1,000.

The Sombrero ground lizard lives on Sombrero Island off the coast of Anguilla. Due to deforestation and hurricanes, their numbers dropped below 100. Conservationists removed invasive species from the island, which helped the lizard population more than triple since 2021. 

New marine reserves have played a big role in protecting endangered species. A recent example is the Hermandad reserve in Ecuador. This reserve helps protect migratory species like sea turtles, whales and sharks from industrial fishing and even climate change. It forms part of the East Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, which stretches from Ecuador to Costa Rica, showing that international co-ordination has reaped rewards​​.

The CBC is a joint effort by Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. It started in 2007 to protect over 200,000 square km of coastal ecosystems. These areas are key for migratory routes and the reproduction of species like whale sharks and sperm whales.

Managing invasive species has played a major role in the strategy behind the conservation efforts. The lionfish invasion, for example, poses a threat to local marine life. Efforts to control their population are ongoing. Another issue is the spread of Sargassum, a type of seaweed. Countries are working together to share data and find ways to manage its impact on beaches and marine habitats​​.

Less than half of the countries in the region sufficiently measure how well these areas are managed. Improving this can help ensure that conservation efforts are effective. One step towards this has been the Visión Amazónica initiative in the Amazon, which aims to integrate protected areas across nine countries.

Conservation efforts also support local economies. As mentioned, local communities benefit from tourism because it’s a big attraction. Of course, sustainable tourism is important, and this needs to operate on a local level too. Training programs help local people become involved in conservation, such as teaching law enforcement officers how to protect wildlife. 

So far, regional cooperation has been the key to successful conservation. The UN Biodiversity Conference aims to protect 30% of land and sea areas by 2030, but more localised collaboration and sharing of data has been the real turning point. 

The Caribbean is making significant strides in conservation. As the beach and sea remain a big tourist attraction, the importance of sustaining local wildlife has become a priority. By working together and implementing effective strategies, the region is helping each other to help endangered species recover.

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