The Massif de la Hotte in Haiti has been highlighted by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) as the highest global priority for urgent conservation action, containing thirteen species of amphibians found nowhere else on the planet. The Macaya Biosphere Reserve encompasses most of the Massif de la Hotte on the southwest Tiburon Peninsula and offers a last hope for protecting some of Haiti’s original forest. The area also covers three priority watersheds that serve Les Cayes, Port Salut, Tiburon and Jeremie. Conservation in this area is at a critical juncture, as unsustainable agriculture and charcoal production place further pressure on the dwindling montane forest.
Locally, a conservation ethic appears to be present - people have made the connection between environmental degradation, erosion and floods, but are forced to do what they can to feed their families. In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, many Haitians from rural families left Port-Au-Prince and returned to their home villages, placing further pressure on the already strained resources in these areas. In some areas of the Massif de la Hotte, such as Formond, it is believed the population has doubled in size. It is vital that biodiversity conservation is incorporated into recovery plans as an underpinning to the sustainable use of natural resources and to ensure resilience against climate change and natural disasters.
Thirteen endangered frog species occur only on the Massif de la Hotte. These include such species as the Critically Endangered Macaya Burrowing Frog (Eleutherodactylus parapelates) and Ventriloquial Frog (Eleutherodactylus dolomedes). Swift action must be taken to save these species’ only remaining forest habitats if they are to persist. In addition to the threatened amphibian species, the karst forest harbors the Near Threatened Hispaniolan Trogon (Priotelus roseigaster) and Rufous-throated Solitaire (Myadestes genibarbis).
The Haitian Ecological Network (Rezo-Ekolo), a consortium of 13 NGOs, has committed to working together to develop and implement a 5 and 10-year national biodiversity strategy, with Société Audubon Haiti elected to oversee management of funds directed towards conservation. Birdlife International has secured an emergency grant through the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) to provide long-term support and mentorship structure to Rezo-Ekolo and to establish a Project Council.
The partners will conduct the following actions:
• Develop strategic plans to conserve and monitor the existing biodiversity in Haiti, with a focus on amphibians as a key indicator group due to the fact that they have the highest number of threatened and endemic species of any vertebrate group.
• Build capacity for amphibian research and monitoring.
• Feed data into conservation prioritization to enable informed and strategic interventions.
• Train and equip forest guards.
• Incorporate priority conservation actions with development of sustainable agricultural practices.
This project will compliment efforts to protect some of the last broadleaf forest on Haiti through the training and employment of forest patrols and development of sustainable agricultural practices with strategic surveys and monitoring of focal amphibian species. Linking international amphibian experts with local scientists and students will build in-country capacity for monitoring, informing and guiding the stewardship of areas for biodiversity conservation.
© 2012 Global Wildlife Conservation