Iguana conservation and sustainable management in the Turks & Caicos Islands are making significant strides through valuable partnerships as demonstrated at the Turks & Caicos Iguana Conservation Workshop held from July 16th to 18th, 2019 at Ocean Club in Providenciales.
Over the three days, a wide range of challenges facing TCI’s iguanas were discussed, as well as communicating and celebrating the successes made since the previous plan. Three key themes were discussed: (1) the overarching Species Action Plan, (2) Biosecurity and invasive species and (3) Ecotourism and Education.
On the last day of the workshop, participants went to Little Water Cay and Half Moon Bay for an informative field trip where they saw some of the challenges first hand.
The next steps will be to pull together all of the key information gathered into a working Species Action Plan, which will be endorsed by the IUCN’s Iguana Specialist Group. This will be used to direct and prioritise future conservation action.
The workshop steered lots of interesting and informative conversations among the different partners and stakeholders in TCI about the future direction for the conservation of TCI’s unique iguanas. Facilitators highlighted the power of working together to achieve more, as it is essential for achieving this conservation ambition.
Staff from the Ministry of Tourism including the Hon. Minister Ralph Higgs and Permanent Secretary Cheryl Ann Jones, were present. The delegation commented, “We were thrilled to be present to witness the work that is undergoing regarding the preservation of the Iguana. The Ministry is supportive of the initiative and consider it highly important that a strategy is in place and also that there is wider awareness and participation. We look forward to receiving further updates and being a part of the process going forward”
This workshop was part of the Saving the Iguana Islands of the Turks and Caicos project, a partnership between Turks & Caicos National Trust, the Department for Environment and Coastal Resources, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Health Department, Ambergris Cay Facilities Ltd, RSPB, San Diego Zoo, Pine Cay Homeowners Associaion and Wildlife Management International Ltd and was funded by the Darwin Initiative.
The Turks & Caicos Islands harbour two remaining strongholds for an endemic, Critically Endangered rock iguana, under threat from invasive mammals and development. Now a partnership of NGOs is working hard to ensure the ‘Iguana Island’ remains worthy of its name.
To gain access to one of the last remaining strongholds of the Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana Cyclura carinata, you’re going to have to get your sea legs. Only accessible by boat, you meander across a turquoise blue channel before stepping off onto a shore that time forgot and where reptiles rule: white sand beaches, wave-worn coralline coast, silver-topped palms swaying in the wind, and mosquito-filled mangrove swamps with floating upside-down jellyfish. Welcome to Little Water Cay, otherwise known as ‘Iguana Island’.
Iguana Island is in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a UK Overseas Territory situated south of the Bahamas in the Caribbean. Managed by the Turks & Caicos National Trust, it is the most accessible place in the world to see these unique rock iguanas in their natural habitat, and therefore has become a significant ecotourism destination, with dedicated boardwalks. The Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana is the smallest of the 14 Cyclura iguana species which have radiated across the Caribbean region, uniquely evolving to the islands they belong to. They are mostly herbivorous, eating vegetation, fruit and flowers, and acts as a seed disperser for native plants.
At 30 cm long, this iguana is the island’s largest (extant) indigenous land animal, but it is in decline. Once abundant throughout these beautiful islands and considered a delicacy by islanders, it is now rarely seen around people and no longer hunted for food. Habitat loss through development, and the spread of invasive species such as rodents and feral cats and dogs, has resulted in the local extinction of iguanas from many islands and continues to cause declines.
Just two strongholds remain: Iguana Island and Big Ambergris Cay, the latter supporting the largest sub-population left in the world. Unfortunately, Big Ambergris Cay is being developed for tourism and although Iguana Island is protected, it has been invaded by rats and feral cats.
There is hope, however. A three-year partnership project between Turks and Caicos National Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK), San Diego Zoo, TCI Department for Environment and Coastal Resources and TCI Department of Agriculture began in April 2017. Funded by the Darwin Initiative, this project is aiming to establish effective controls and biosecurity on Iguana Island and Big Ambergris Cay to provide safe havens for the rock iguana as well as surveying to better understand them.
One of the most important activities to make this work a success is to improve the understanding of the importance of the project to the country and the role everyone plays in safeguarding these unique creatures for future generations. Turks & Caicos National Trust is leading a public awareness campaign, funded by the EU BEST program, which focuses on raising awareness and pride in Turks and Caicos Islanders of the amazing wildlife only found on these beautiful islands. The Turks & Caicos National Trust, along with ‘Rocky’ the iguana, have been attending events and schools across the islands to discuss the amazing wildlife of the Turks and Caicos and the work that is being done to reduce the impact of non-native predators.
As we move about the islands cultivating an awareness of the plight and an appreciation for the rock iguana, we hope to create a pride in the incredible wildlife of Turks & Caicos and create a culture that will protect the islands’ unique wildlife for future generations to come.
By : Sarah Havery
The Chairman and Board of Directors of the Turks and Caicos National Trust are pleased to welcome Mrs. Winema Sanders-Penn as the new Executive Director of the Turks & Caicos National Trust, effective 3rd June 2019.
Mrs. Sanders-Penn, who is native - born on the island of Grand Turk, was an intern at the National Trust in 2011 where she displayed a keen interest and passion for historical research and heritage preservation.
In 2014 she joined the Turks and Caicos National Trust as the Public Awareness and Education Officer; working alongside with senior officers of the organization in monitoring the heritage sites as well as engaging with schools and youth to spread awareness about the rich heritage of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In addition, Mrs. Sanders-Penn held the post as Director for the Turks and Caicos Islands Red Cross, contributing her skills and experience during and after the 2017 hurricanes. Along with her team, she aided in the Response/Recovery throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Furthermore, Mrs. Sanders-Penn is a proud Turks Islander, devoted and dedicated wife and mother of two.
Commenting on her appointment Mrs. Sanders-Penn stated, “I feel honoured and privileged to have been appointed to the position of Executive Director of the Turks and Caicos National Trust. I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve as a steward, safeguarding the historical, cultural and environmental treasures of our ‘Beautiful by Nature’ Turks and Caicos Islands.”
Inclusive of her passion for the National Trust, Ms. Sanders’ academic background includes a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History, Latin American & Caribbean Studies with a minor in African Studies from the College of Charleston. This background is an asset which will assist the National Trust in attaining its mandate, and develop key initiatives that will bring more awareness to the public, by establishing stronger relationships with stakeholders and the community at large.
The Turks and Caicos National Trust through its “Power of Partnership” initiative launched since 2014, highlighted the concept as one of its key programme strategies for the immediate past institutional year, and has seen fit to continue with the concept in achieving goals in the current year.
Building on achievements accomplished last year, and focusing on the objectives of its Youth Empowerment Programme, the National Trust will be hosting two interns from the Community College on a six week stint commencing May 20th, 2019. The interns are pursuing a course in Hospitality and Tourism Management and represent both the Grand Turk and Providenciales campuses.
The interns will engage in an opportunity to learn policies and procedures deployed by the Trust in managing heritage tourism sites, learn the significance of operational statistics in relation to the work of the organisation and the importance of reaching for excellence in customer service.
The Trust is no stranger to accommodating interns, having hosted interns from the British West Indies Collegiate and US Colleges, but is looking forward to this new experience with the TCI Community College and strengthening of the partnership through other initiatives.
For almost a decade, the Turks and Caicos National Trust has methodically developed a brand that would show case eco- tourism through the programmes of the Trust, whilst simultaneously protecting, preserving and promoting the cultural, historical and natural heritage of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
To learn more about our Youth Empowerment Programme and internship opportunities, contact the Turks & Caicos National Trust at (649) 941-5710 or send an e-mail at email@example.com.
The Turks and Caicos National Trust is celebrating World Biodiversity Day 2019, and will showcase Turks and Caicos Biodiversity through Art.
The art exhibition will be held at the Salt Mills Plaza on May 22nd, 2019 which is International Biodiversity Day.
‘Preserving Traditional Skills with a Flair of Modernization’ was the theme of a local craft workshop hosted by the Turks and Caicos National Trust March 29th, continued on April 1st, 2019.
Artisans of the twin Isles Middle and North Caicos were presented with an opportunity to showcase their skills in utilizing bits of fabric (scraps) to produce the traditional mats and doilies, but with new creations.
The workshop was held at the Flamingo Pond Visitor Information Centre and Local Craft Outlet facility, in Whitby, North Caicos.
New ideas introduced by the facilitator and attempted by the participants were coasters, dashboard protectors, color coordinated doilies and wall ornaments. The participants were encouraged to produce marketable items which could be displayed at the Flamingo Pond Local Craft Outlet for retail, as well at other National Trust gift shops at the Conch Bar Cave, Little Water Cay, Heaving Down Rock and Cheshire Hall Plantation Ruins Historic Site.
Through its cultural heritage preservation programme, the National Trust encourages the public to buy local, support our artisans and support the preservation of traditional skills.
For more information about this craft workshop and the other related projects, please contact the Turks & Caicos National Trust at (649) 941-5710 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
TCNT welcomed students from schools from North and Middle Caicos to Little Water Cay (Iguana Island) for a day of fun, and educational activities. These students ranging from age 8-18 engaged in activities purposed at teaching them about our endemic ‘Rock Iguana’ as part of our ongoing Darwin+ funded ‘Saving the Iguana Islands of the Turks and Caicos’ project. These students, teachers and volunteers were toured around the Iguana sanctuary by our highly trained wardens who informed them about bio-security works ongoing on Iguana Island, their role in monitoring baiting stations and recording data. They also learned about the iguanas’ habitat, got to visit the boroughs, iguana etiquette, and other animal life that call Iguana Island their home. They also learned about the measures being taken by scientists from around the world to monitor the health, population numbers, movements and how to protect our iguanas.
The project focused on students from North and Middle Caicos who were surveyed last year to gauge their knowledge of our endangered Rock Iguanas. These students serve as ambassadors for public awareness campaign and will take part in ongoing surveys and activities.
Local conservation management agencies, the Turks and Caicos National Trust (TCNT) and the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), will be spearheading activities under the theme ‘Wetlands and Climate Change’. A very significant highlight for wetlands conservation this year is the launch of a very prestigious project that will focus on wetlands in Providenciales.
The UK Government’s Darwin Plus initiative funding agency has just announced funding for 17 conservation projects worth more than £3.5 million in the UK Overseas Territories to deliver commitments in a 25 Year Environment Plan.
Of these 17 projects, the Turks and Caicos Islands along with two other Caribbean UK Overseas Territories, Anguilla and Montserrat will benefit from one cross territory project to protect four wetland sites. The Turks and Caicos component of the project will focus on the Wheeland Ponds in Providenciales. Local conservation partners have identified the Wheeland Ponds as a critical ecological site and have organized annual World Wetlands Day activities around the ponds for the past five years.
The project is timely in that the Office of the Premier recently launched the country’s Climate Change Initiative with the completion of the territory’s first climate change policy. The wetlands project also fits squarely within the remit of the Trust and the organization’s heritage protection and sustainable development goals for 2019.
Caribbean wetlands are very important ecological sites. They provide habitat for birds, nursery for juvenile fish, and other services such as protection from flooding and storm surges. Yet our wetlands face threats. Threats from illegal dumping, excavation and backfilling. These unhealthy activities contribute to the destruction and degradation of wetlands.
The National Trust is indeed elated to participate in such an esteemed project which is intended to raise the level of awareness towards the ecological services provided by our wetlands, develop management plans, implement action plans to restore wetlands and enhance terrestrial boundaries by installing informative signage. Other outputs from the project are; to sensitize and mobilize communities neighboring wetlands to become involved in wise management of such ecosystems and reap the benefits of sustainable management of wetlands in the Turks and Caicos Islands with off shoots of entrepreneurial initiatives.
The wetlands project is indeed an opportunity for citizens and residents of the Turks and Caicos to learn more about this particular ecosystem and appreciate the wonderful natural world of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Twin Islands North and Middle Caicos are teeming with wetlands and wildlife; a fitting place to celebrate World Wetlands Day, activities of which were observed on February 1st & 2nd, 2019.
The two-day observance included school talk and field study which involved Primary and High School students, along with community volunteers, staff of the Turks & Caicos National Trust and DECR. Aside from highlighting the importance of wetlands to TCI’s ecology, participants were educated about the plight of our Rock Iguanas, under the theme: “Wetlands and Climate Change: Its impact on our endemic Rock Iguanas”.
On Friday, February 1st, the day was spent in the classrooms on North and Middle Caicos, educating our students about wetlands and the affects that climate change may have on the environment and our wildlife. Students were engaged with a fun activity with information about the wetlands and its impact on the rock iguanas’ habitats. They were then quizzed with questions designed from the information provided.
On the next day, February 2nd, the team spent the day in the field as students participated in a survey exercise. There were discussion and activities that were designed to teach Iguana etiquette, their habitat and the impact that climate change has on their ever changing habitats.
This collaboration between the National Trust and DECR is sponsored by the UK-funded Darwin Plus Project with its flagship initiative ‘Saving the Iguana Islands of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Project.
The Turks and Caicos Islands on February 2nd, 2019, will join the rest of the world in commemorating World Wetlands Day. Local conservation management agencies, the Turks and Caicos National Trust (TCNT) and the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), will be spearheading activities under the theme ‘Wetlands and Climate Change’ (we invite the public to follow our Facebook page www.facebook.com/ticnationaltrust, and website www.tcnationaltrust.org to learn more about the activities). A very significant highlight for wetlands conservation this year is the launch of a very prestigious project that will focus on wetlands in Providenciales.
Copyright: Turks and Caicos National Trust (1992-2016)P.O.Box 540, #50 Salt Mills Plaza, Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands. Tel: (649) 941 5710 Fax: (649) 941 4258 E-Mail: email@example.com