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Cabritos Island is a 1,593-hectare island located within Lago Enriquillo, a saltwater lake forty-four meters below sea level in the western Dominican Republic. The lake is the lowest point in the Caribbean and the largest lake in the insular Caribbean. The island is made up of ancient seabed; fossilized coral and seashells cover the ground in some places. The area is reputed to be the hottest and driest part of the country.

Cabritos is home to two species of iguana: the Critically Endangered Ricord’s Iguana and the Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana. For years, invasive species, including feral cats and donkeys, on Cabritos Island threatened iguana populations by eating young iguanas, destroying nests, competing for food, and damaging critical habitat.

 

 

In 2013, Island Conservation joined the effort to restore Cabritos alongside the Ministry of the Environment of the Dominican Republic and SOH Conservation with the support of local organizations Grupo Jaragua and the Lake Enriquillo Ecotourism Guides Association.

One of the keys to success in this project creating, training, and supporting a local team of more than a dozen men from the Dominican Republic who completed the vast majority of the field work. The dedication of the local team to the project ensured that all invasive species were eliminated without presenting unnecessary risks or negative effects for native species. This model created local jobs and capabilities within the Dominican Republic for important conservation work.

In 2017, Island Conservation and our partners returned to confirm the successful restoration of the island. After extensive monitoring, the team confirmed Cabritos Island’s native iguanas are poised for recovery following the successful removal of introduced, damaging (invasive) donkeys, feral cats, and cows from the island.

 

Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana, Cabritos Island, Dominican Republic

Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana, Cabritos Island, Dominican Republic

 

PROJECT MISSION
To provide safe breeding habitat for threatened species on Cabritos Island by removing invasive species.

PROJECT VISION
Cabritos Island’s native wildlife, particularly its iguana population, is thriving.

THE PROBLEM
Invasive species directly prey on native reptiles, destory their nests, and damage critical habitat.

THE SOLUTION
The removal of invasive species from Cabritos Island will safeguard and protect native iguana populations and allow the opportunity for the habitat to recover.

THE PARTNERSHIP
The Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, with support from Island Conservation and SOH Conservation, is leading an international effort to restore Cabritos Island by removing invasive species.

  • Wes Jolley
    Wes Jolley
    Project Manager

PROTECTING A CARIBBEAN WONDERLAND

1. RICORD’S IGUANA

This Critically Endangered species is one of the most endangered lizards in the world. The Ricord’s Iguana survives as three subpopulations within the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in southwestern Dominican Republic. The wild population, estimated at between 2,000 and 4,000 individuals, continues to decline due to invasive species and loss of habitat.

2. RHINOCEROS IGUANA

Current estimates for the Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana are between 10,000 and 17,000 animals, of which about 10 subpopulations occur in the Dominican Republic. In most areas, these iguanas exist in low densities and are declining due to invasive species and human pressure on their habitat.

3. INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED

Cabritos Island was declared a national park in 1974. In 1996 Lake Enriquillo was added to create the Lake Enriquillo and Cabritos Island National Park.The 20,000-hectare protected area is one of the core zones of the Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a designated Ramsar site, and an Important Bird Area.

4. CONSERVATION ACTION ON CABRITOS

Since the island achieved national park status, the iguana species on Cabritos Island have benefited from protective management and natural habitat regeneration. However, the persistence of invasive species on the island continues to threaten the long-term survival of these imperiled animals.

5. LOCAL SUPPORT

A local field team from the Dominican Republic was assembled and trained in removal techniques for the Cabritos Island Restoration Project. Through training, the team has developed extensive knowledge and gained experience in invasive species removal techniques, building capacity for future projects in the region.

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Wes Jolley
Project Manager

Wes received his degree in wildlife science with a minor in biology from Utah State University. He has held a variety of conservation jobs ranging from studying bats in southern Utah to working on a silviculture crew in Alaska. Wes joined Island Conservation in 2009 as part of the team dedicated to the restoration of San Nicolas Island, California. He has served various roles on Island Conservation’s projects in the US, Ecuador, Chile, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. Since being promoted to project manager in 2013, Wes has supported various projects and led two.  First he focused on saving the IUCN-listed Critically Endangered Ricord’s Iguana and six other Vulnerable species by restoring Cabritos Island, which is located in Lake Enriquillo in the Dominican Republic. Since 2017, he has led Island Conservation’s efforts to restore Sand Island on Midway Atoll to protect the nesting habitat of Laysan Albatross and many other avian species.

 

A gift to Island Conservation in your estate plan will build a legacy and assure a future in which island species thrive. By including Island Conservation in your will, your estate may receive significant tax savings. A designated sum or a certain percentage of a residuary estate can be donated or consider making Island Conservation a full or partial beneficiary of your IRA, 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan.  If you choose to provide for Island Conservation in your estate plans, please contact the development manager at giving@islandconservation.org or 831-359-4787.

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Midway Atoll conservation

 

 

 

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