Wes Jolley, our intrepid Islas Cabritos Island Project lead, is once again on Cabritos Island in the Dominican Republic (DR) where he’s working shoulder- to-shoulder with a conservation team from the DR Ministry of the Environment to protect Cabritos’ native species. Wes is joined by our own Jose Luis Herrera, and the two of them are training the DR staff team to become experts in the tracking and removal of invasive species from Cabritos Island. Wes recently sent us this dramatic update from the field as they endeavor to save the Critically Endangered Ricord’s Iguana and Threatened Rhinoceros Iguana.
Flying Dogs in the Dominican Republic? Airplane Chases Its Own Tail as K9 Team is Delivered.
Part One: November 1, 2015
By Wes Jolley
Saludos desde Isla Cabritos! Jose Luis and I arrived in the DR a just over a week ago. As is typical, we spent some time on the mainland before embarking for our residency on Islas Cabritos. We used this time to meet with our partners at the , provision, and line up final logistics for the mission at hand. This particular trip is unique because it involves a special team of tracking dogs. Invasive species become harder to find the fewer their numbers become. So, these four-legged companions, a welcome addition to the team, shaped our pre-mission activities. This included meeting our veterinarian and making sure the animal control officers were briefed, well-informed, and anticipating the arrival of all four of our special K9 companions.
Surprisingly, having dogs along for the ride stepped up the quality of our mainland lodging. We felt a bit spoiled renting a dog-friendly house 45 minutes outside of Santo Domingo. The house wasn’t perfect, but given comparable costs, the dogs, team, and I all enjoyed waking up to the ocean every day. This was a welcome change from the usual Santo Domingo traffic alarm clock! However, we knew these comforts were fleeting and getting too used to them risked making our move to the island a bit of a shock!
So, we settled in, began our provisioning, had our meetings and started monitoring the weather, which had a regular pattern of evening storms, but nothing too crazy. That is until the night the dogs and handlers were due to arrive. That night, we witnessed just about the craziest lightning storm I’ve ever seen. The drive to the airport was a supercharged, drive-through carwash dance club! The lightning created a strobe-light that lit up my windshield wipers 8 times per wiper cycle! This did not bode well, and we were convinced the plane would be rerouted to Puerto Rico or somewhere else. That could mean a long night.
Remarkably, we arrived to the airport to find that the flight was delayed only 15 minutes. That plane was landing through the back-end of the storm! I was stressed, but I had it easy because I wasn’t on the plane.
The plane landed safely, but dramatically. I overheard one person departing the plane say the landing was “like the plane was chasing its own tail!” This made me wonder and worry about our K9 teammates again. The airport was absolutely packed because other flights had been delayed as well. I was getting nervous…people were streaming off the plane, but no dogs…no handlers.
We hung around quite a while, until suddenly I witnessed a small army of baggage handlers wheeling out dog crates. Jose Luis worked his native Spanish negotiation magic once again, and the animal control officers waved the dogs through without a worry (a letter from the head Ministry office saying ‘we do not oppose the entrance of these dogs’ probably helped!). Jorge Brocca, executive director for SOH Conservacion, our local partner, had offered to come along with his truck to help transport gear to the house. This generous help saved us hiring a taxi for the dogs. So, without incident, but with plenty of drama and a bit of anxiety, our team was complete on its way to one more comfortable night of sleep before heading out to the formidable environs of Islas Cabritos…
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- Get to Know the REAL Wild Things: The Antillean Mango Hummingbird - January 20, 2016
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