The Washington Post, via the Associated Press, reports a new private nature reserve being created in the Dominican Republic for the conservation of, among other species, the Bicknell’s Thrush:
An elusive songbird that wings its way each year from austere mountaintops of the northeastern U.S. to the steamy forests of the Caribbean has inspired the creation of what conservationists hope will be a new model for nature reserves in a country that has long struggled with deforestation.
The reserve is taking shape in a lushly overgrown former cattle ranch measuring about 1,000 acres, at the edge of a deep green forest in the Dominican Republic’s rugged northeast. Conservation-minded Dominican and U.S. investors have acquired the plot as a pilot project, hoping to protect what they say is a global biodiversity hotspot that’s home to dozens of threatened species.
Tentatively known as the Reserva Privada Zorzal, the government sees the reserve as a potential example, showing that such land can be put to better uses than burning down the trees to convert it to pasture, a typical approach in this Caribbean country with only about 40 percent of its forest cover left. Neighboring Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola, has virtually none of its forest standing.
Jesus Moreno, a Dominican businessman whose family is partially funding the reserve, says the portion of the property where most of the trees have already been removed is well-suited to low-intensity, organic agriculture. He plans to grow macadamia trees and cacao, the raw material in chocolate, while allowing the forest to regenerate, in perpetuity, on three-fourths of the holding. The country’s environment minister is scheduled to inaugurate the reserve project on June 5.
Among those species at risk is the zorzal migratorio, known in English as the Bicknell’s thrush. The palm-size, brownish songbird mostly comes out at dusk or dawn and, like many birds, heads south in the winter. It divides its time between the Caribbean islands and mountaintop forests in the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada that generally rise above 3,000 feet.
The bird is considered vulnerable, with an estimated fewer than 100,000 in the wild, because it occupies a narrow range of habitat that’s under pressure on both sides of its migratory route, said Chris Rimmer, an ornithologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies who is an expert on the Bicknell’s thrush and helped establish the reserve. Threats to the species in the U.S. include air pollution and loss of the conifer forest habitat from development and climate change.
Read more in the full AP article at the Post website.
There are several previous posts on Green Antilles about the Bicknell’s Thrush on Hispaniola.
You may also be interested in the International Bicknell’s Thrust Conservation Group.
[Photo: Kent McFarland]