Island conservation science cabritos island

Boating Burros? They can’t row!

Notes from the Field; Cabritos Edition 2015. Part 4

Here’s the last installment from Wes’s update from the field. Following the saga of Flying Dogs, and Disappearing  Cows, this installment follows Wes as the team is evaluating just how much progress the Dominican Republic Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources’ teams have made in removing invasive burros, and feral cats from Cabritos…and it turns out, the work is getting harder!

Like what you read? Join Wes, his team, and Island Conservation today to save some of the most threatened lizards in the world!

Boating Burros? They can’t row!

Part Four; November 1, 2015
By Wes Jolley

Can you imagine burros traversing a lake in an oversized rowboat with an outboard motor attached? It’s quite a feat. Removing invasive, feral burros is one primary objective of this project because they are one of the greatest threats to Cabritos’s Endangered Rock Iguanas. I’m pleased to report that the burro population is greatly reduced. In fact, I’ve seen some tracks but not actual burros, which is a first for me on a trip to Cabritos! Friday we released four burros with radio collars that make them easy to track so we can locate the remaining individuals when they pack up with the trackable ones. We’ll return early next year to see if that was successful.

Island conservation science cabritos island

Ramon Peña displaying his trophy tilapia

Ramon Pena, our camp manager who helped the Ministry’s efforts to capture the first 99 feral burros from Cabritos and donate them to locals on the mainland, led the efforts to transport the collared burros. He and four Ministry staff expertly handled, secured, and loaded/unloaded the burros from the boat. Everything went smoothly with minimal stress on the animals. I can’t imagine many other folks attempting that without serious harm to themselves!

Island conservation science cabritos island

The team drags tree branches along the road creating an 8-mile long track pad. Its also easily checked while driving the next day.

The focus of this trip is to locate the remaining feral cats with the assistance of our tracking dogs. This aspect of the mission is a scary yet exciting time. It’s scary because we haven’t seen any feral cats yet on this trip. It’s exciting because I’m confident our lack of success in finding feral cats is due to a very low population. We know there is at least one feral cat on the island, and that any feral cats that are still here appear to be highly mobile. Every time we go out it is about getting the tracking dogs in the right area at the right time. The dogs are out of camp before 3 AM each morning, and are easily each covering between 15 and 20 miles each day. We’re dragging tree limbs on trails each evening to create an eight-mile long ‘track pad’ that we check each morning for signs of these invasive predators.  We check our remote monitoring cameras every chance we get for evidence of feral cats. This situation is causing us to push harder, focus better, and be at our best. Morale is strong and we’re confident we’re giving this everything we got.

Island conservation science cabritos island

A small Ricord’s Iguana, and regular visitor to the Cabritos Island field camp

As the populations of these invasive species dwindle, our job gets tougher. But that’s good news and we have the Dominican field team to thank for that, as they have done an excellent job removing invasive species from the island! I’ll take this over the alternative any day. The field team has advanced this project closer to completion than I previously dared imagine. They’ve powered through conditions that would have driven most people crazy.

Island conservation science cabritos island

A Great Blue Heron leaves its roost amongst the dead trees on the shore of Cabritos Island

Finally, I’ve captured some great pictures. It must be Curly-tail Lizard breeding season because they are all brightly colored right now. And, it must be Ricord’s Iguana molting season because some of them are looking really rough. was lucky enough to have a camera nearby when a lizard decided to catch some sun on the back of an iguana. I’ve also captured some great images, including an early sunrise taken with the (fully permitted) quad-copter drone. This place is harsh, and the work is hard, but the landscape and the species are just beautiful!

Island conservation science cabritos island

A Curly-Tail Lizard in full breeding colors

 Join our Campaign to Save Cabritos Iguanas

Our goal is to raise $22,000 by February 1, 2016 to save the Critically Endangered Ricord’s Iguana and Vulnerable Rhinoceros Iguana. By continuing removal of invasive species from Cabritos Island. This funding will be put directly on the ground to purchase supplies and feed our Dominican field team as they battle the scorching temperatures, avoid the crocodiles, and remove invasive species—all to save these wondrous and wild iguanas who, without your help, could be lost forever. Over the next several months we’ll be reaching out to conservation heroes like you, the queens and “kings of all wild things”, to amplify this “wild rumpus”. You can join the campaign by donating directly (all gifts support the Cabritos Island Restoration Project or by becoming an ambassador for the campaign and sharing with your friends, family, and colleagues.



About Wes Jolley

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.

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