Heritage Protection – Strengthening Protection

Strengthen Protection of Grenada’s National Parks and Protected Areas

The Forestry and National Parks Department (FNPD) in the Ministry of Agriculture has collaborated with the Grenada Dove Conservation Programme (GDCP) on an initiative to further strengthen the protection of two of Grenada’s Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) – the Mt. Hartman National Park KBA and the recently cabinet approved Beausejour/Grenville Vale KBA.

These KBAs are home to the critically endangered Grenada Dove, and have received international recognition by Bird Life International as Important Bird Areas.

The Forestry Department and GDCP will be implementing several activities in these KBAs that will enable the conservation of Grenada’s ecosystems and biodiversity particularly the Grenada Dove.

Additionally, this initiative will create livelihood opportunities for neighbouring communities and assist Grenada in meeting its obligations to international conventions.

Some of the planned activities include the implementation of an awareness plan which comprises a song competition and school presentations; the erection of billboards and boundary signs at these sites and the construction of a birding trail at the Beausejour/Grenville Vale KBA.

Presently, community meetings are being held and are continuing to identify livelihood opportunities for residents and the establishment of a stakeholder management team.

Funding for this Project was received from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and was started in November 2012 and is intended to continue until April 2014.

The Project is titled “Strengthening the Legal Protection of Mt. Hartman National Park KBA and Beausejour/Grenville Vale KBA in Grenada” and is facilitated by Ms. Bonnie Rusk, Founding Director of GDCP since 1991.

Bonnie Rusk, Director of Grenada Dove Conservation Programme and National Park Ranger Peter Plenty on a round checking and rebaiting the tracking tunnels at Mt. Hartman.
Bonnie Rusk is a Conservation Biologist who has dedicated her life to saving the critically-endangered Grenada dove.

“This is my life’s work, this is what I do. It has been all-consuming for the last 18 years,” says the 46-year-old.

Rusk, a Canadian conservation biologist, fascinated by endangered species on islands, began graduate research on the dove in 1991.

Conservation efforts, initiated largely by Rusk (in collaboration with Grenada’s Forestry and National Parks) were succeeding, with the dove’s population rising from around 90 in 1990, to 182 in 2003, when Hurricane Ivan struck in 2004. “The devastation wrought by Ivan was unbelievable, it wiped out at least a third of the dove’s population,” she says.

The dove faced another threat in 2006 when plans to build a holiday resort on one of its last remaining strongholds were unveiled.  Rusk, who lives high in the Colorado Mountains but spends up to five months a year in Grenada, mediated a solution between the interests of the dove and the developers. That resulted in international exposure.

“That made a difference,” she says. “Local people saw this was a big deal and that foreign visitors would come just to see the dove. The dove is unique to Grenada.”

Rusk’s work  includes monitoring population levels; ecological studies on the dove’s dry forest habitat; collaborating with government; community work; awareness campaigns (including television), and school education programmes. She was instrumental in the establishment of two national parks for the dove, and having a dedicated visitor centre built at the Mt Harman Estate. 2007 population estimates suggest 136 doves remain, concentrated in two pockets on the Grenadian south-west and west coasts

“The species cannot decline any further,” says Bonnie, or else extinction looms. “The key is habitat protection. Many other things will come from that but first and foremost we must protect its remaining habitat.”

• Visit http://www.birdlife.org or contact Bonnie Rusk at bonnie@GrenadaDove.org

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