Environmental Education as One Means to Conserve the Ridgway’s Hawk in the Dominican Republic
Marta Curti— 9 February 2005 — in West Indies Project ShareCrystal blue waters, white sand beaches and lush vegetation; these are the views we take in as we drive from the airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR), through the countryside, on our way to Los Haitises National Park, located in the northeast portion of the country. I have come from Panama to spend a week working with biologists Jesus Almonte and Pedro Rodriguez, to help implement an education program designed to promote the conservation of the endangered, endemic, Ridgway’s Hawk. My job would be to help them develop presentations, activities and a means to evaluate the progress of this program, which will take place in communities that surround Ridgway’s Hawk territory.
Though we still have a long way to go, and extensive work still needs to be done in order to conserve this and other raptor species, we were happy with the results of the survey. Based on the answers that we received, we were able to develop an initial education strategy. Our goal was to focus on the importance of raptors in the ecosystem and their role in managing populations of “pest” animals such as rodents and snakes. Everyone we spoke to mentioned that rodents are a big problem in the community – from chewing holes in people’s clothes, to wreaking havoc in agricultural fields, to killing and eating young chickens. When we explained to people that Ridgway’s Hawks and other raptors can help control the number of rodents in the area, most people saw the benefits of having these birds nearby.
As I headed back to Panama, I thought how lucky I was to have seen this species in the wild; however, I couldn’t help but wonder if future generations will be so fortunate. Then, as my plane lifted off, I thought of all the people I had met who are working so hard for this bird’s conservation and I knew that the future of the Ridgway’s Hawk, though uncertain, couldn’t be in better hands.
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