Threatened Caribbean species and habitats on Margarita Island, Venezuela
Margarita Island is located off the north-eastern coast of Venezuela. It is the only Caribbean island with a native carnivore population – ocelots and skunks. The site of the first permanent Spanish colony in the New World, during the last three decades the island has become an important tourist destination with increasing human pressure on native species and habitats.
Margarita, like other Caribbean islands, is now a threatened species hotspot and at least seven endemic birds and mammals are threatened with extinction. The western portion of the island, the Macanao Peninsula, is where most of the wild habitat remains and is the area first focused on by Jon Paul and Provita, the organisation he founded as a student fifteen years ago.
Provita began by concentrating on threatened species and their habitats, such as the yellow-shouldered parrot. The main threats were the capture of nestlings for the pet trade and destruction of the nesting habitat by sand mining operations. Provita’s program has been highly successful and a recent survey revealed that the population had increased from 750 birds in 1989 to 2,400 birds today.
Jon Paul will continue to oversee this successful monitoring and management of threatened species on Margarita Island. He will carry on working with the yellow-shouldered parrot and its nestlings as well as the blue-crowned conure. Although the conure’s entire breeding range occurs within the national park, poaching has made this conure the most threatened bird on Margarita. Marine turtles and the wild populations of ocelot are both also endangered and need help.
In wider terms, Provita has worked to become a leader in threatened conservation of threatened species and habitats on the Island. It plans to create Venezuela’s first Integrated Conservation and Development Centre by 2004. This should provide a blue print for further Centres elsewhere in Venezuela – a country rich in biodiversity but currently lacking sufficient human and financial resources to effectively conserve and sustainably benefit from its species and habitats. Jon Paul aims to promote scientific and general understanding of Venezuela’s rich biological biodiversity on a national and international level. By building capacity expertise locally, and working with other natural and social scientists from abroad, in 10 years time Jon Paul would like to be able to point to several species that he has saved from extinction.
PROVITA WINS THE 2005 NUEVA ESPARTA REGIONAL CONSERVATION PRIZE
June 1st 2005
Congratulations to Provita for being awarded the Nueva Esparta’s Regional Conservation Prize for 2005 for the team’s outstanding work raising awareness of the biodiversity of Margarita Island.