Hispaniola is an island that consists of two countries – the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the birthplace of John James Audubon. This area is one of the poorest economically in the western hemisphere and also one in conservation peril. The Vermont Institute of Natural Science is leading research in this area to help stop the forest loss and help the 31 endemic bird species found there.
Why would Vermont care about bird conservation in Hispaniola? Bicknell's Thrushes nest in Vermont and winter almost exclusively in Hispaniola. The species is for the most part safe in its breeding range but it is the wintering grounds that need to be protected. By promoting conservation, Hispaniola can promote ecotourism which provides sustainable income for two struggling countries, a win-win for everyone.
In the Spring 2007 issue of Living Bird there is an excellent article about the problems Haiti is facing with habitat loss. The biggest and best place for the country's remaining birds is the Macaya Biosphere Reserve. Teams of researchers have been observing the bird life and the outlook is not good. Perhaps the hardest obstacle to tackle is the question: Why worry about birds when people are suffering too?
The people, like the birds, cannot be seperated from the land. If the land is suffering and being abused, so too are the people and the birds. When the resident birds of Haiti are gone, when migrants must all pass over Haiti and squeeze themselves into the remaining habitat in the Dominican Republic, it will be too late to salvage the Haitian forest…there will be no hope of a good harvest, and the people will be unable to feed themselves. – Haitian conservationist Phillipe Bayard
It will take international efforts to ensure this area gets the protection it deserves.