By Brad Sylvester
Jamaica, despite its small size, is an ecological gem. Jamaica's distance from the mainland has helped its native wildlife to evolve independently of species found elsewhere for millions of years. There were, in colonial days, 30 species of birds on the small island of Jamaica that were found nowhere else in the world. Two of them have gone extinct, leaving Jamaica with 28 endemic bird species. Two more, however -- the yellow-billed parrot and especially the black-billed parrot -- are in danger of following the Jamaican petrel and the Jamaican poorwill into extinction. The demise of all four species can be largely attributed to short-sightedness.Invasive Mongoose Runs Rampant in Jamaica
The ground-nesting Jamaican petrel and Jamaican poorwill went into sharp decline and disappeared soon after the deliberate introduction of the mongoose to Jamaica by plantation owners seeking to control rat populations in their fields, says Ricardo Miller of Jamaica's National Environmental and Planning Agency (NEPA).
The mongoose did in fact help with the rats, but did not see the need to limit its diet to just one type of prey. From its introduction and still today, the mongoose poses a serious threat to other Jamaican wildlife as well. Today, the mongoose thrives in Jamaica, and I saw many darting across the roads as I traveled throughout the country in April.
Pet Market Fuels Jamaican Parrot Poaching
Parrots, on the other hand, are quite popular in the pet trade and a ready market exists for any parrots caught by poachers. Roger Thompson, Park Ranger for Jamaica Conservation Development Trust, described to me the process by which poachers catch parrots as we walked along Ecclesdown Road while watching a small flock of yellow-billed parrots descend upon a fruit tree in the valley below us. More....