National Trust buys up wetlands

Next campaign targets threatened parrot habitat

The National Trust is taking steps to provide extra protection for the Cayman parrot.

The National Trust purchased 131 acres of wetlands across the Cayman Islands during a year-long campaign in 2015 and is now turning its attention to buying and protecting the dry forest habitat of Cayman’s parrots.

The Trust now owns 900 acres of wetlands, protecting it from development.

The purchases in 2015, which expand the size of established nature reserves, were made through donations to the Trust’s Land Reserve Fund.

In 2016 the Trust plans to focus on using the fund to purchase and protect dry forest land. The ultimate goal of the organization is to use the fund to ensure at least 10 percent of environmentally sensitive land of all types in the Cayman Islands is under protection.

Some of these areas could get an additional layer of protection under the new National Conservation Law, with the National Trust proposing that they become some of the first official Conservation Areas.

Trust Executive Director Christina Pineda said, “On small islands with limited land mass, many areas of important biodiversity end up being developed. Biodiversity offers ecosystem services which is fundamental to human well-being.

“It is important for the Trust to purchase important habitat such as wetlands to ensure that these ecosystem services, such as fisheries and carbon storage, are available to the people of the Cayman Islands forever.”

She said the organization is also working with an international conservation group in an attempt to increase the amount of parrot habitat it can purchase and protect.

“We are already looking at important parrot habitat that can build upon already Trust-owned land to provide increased protected area for Cayman’s national bird,” she said.

She cited the Cayman Brac Parrot Reserve as the type of area that could be preserved and protected through donations in 2016.

The reserve, dominated by pristine, ancient dry forest on rough and rocky terrain, is home to a great diversity of native trees and supports a variety of birds, including the red-legged thrush, white crowned pigeon and black whiskered vireo, as well as endemic, endangered parrots.

According to the Trust, human development and habitat loss have put the Cayman Brac parrot, a sub-species of the Cuban Amazon parrot, in dire straits. The loss of trees used for shelter and food has made it harder for the birds to survive storms. Hundreds of parrots died during Hurricanes Ivan and Paloma.

Today there are an estimated 425 Cayman Brac parrots left, including between 20 and 60 breeding pairs.

“The biggest danger right now is that the trees the birds would use for reproduction and nesting are disappearing as new subdivisions pop up across the islands,” according to a press release from the Trust.

“The long-term future of the parrots depends critically on the conservation of enough old-growth forest areas on the Brac to support this inherently endangered species,” Ms. Pineda added.

“We hope supporters will join the growing number of friends and benefactors who believe that our untouched forests and habitats are valuable and vulnerable, and urgently need to be protected.”

Contributors to the Land Reserve Fund are being asked to make a minimum donation of $2,500.

“A five-year commitment of $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000 annually will allow us to purchase needed land now,” said Trust Council member Janet Walker, who spearheads the campaign.

Ms. Pineda says there are other ways to donate to the Trust, including through a new monthly giving club, which starts at $10 a month.

“The Trust welcomes any help we can get, whether it’s a dollar or an hour volunteering,” she said.

For more information, contact Clare Lumsden at [email protected]