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Dominican partners patrol lagoon to rescue flamingos

May 7, 2020

This article was written in Spanish by members of Grupo Jaragua, our local partner in our project at the Dominican Republic’s Oviedo Lagoon. It has been translated, edited, and re-posted with their permission.

Guides and captains of AGUINAOVI: Heroes of the flamingos and guardians of the mangroves of the Oviedo Lagoon

In these difficult times, we decided to share this beautiful story about the local heroes of the Laguna de Oviedo Nature Guides Association (AGUINAOVI), committed to conserving the biodiversity of the Jaragua National Park. Given the current situation in the Dominican Republic, more than ever, it is essential to remember the value of community and participatory management in our protected areas and the important role that local ecotourism plays in the sustainable development of the local economy.

At the beginning of March, before the pandemic situation, some AGUINAOVI guides raised the alarm when they detected two adult flamingos caught with snare traps, in the surroundings of the Caño San Luis, Laguna de Oviedo. As the birds flapped their wings in panic, in a futile effort to rise into flight, the guides immediately proceeded to free the trapped flamingos. The guides were able to document the rescue process and upon returning they alerted their companions: “We must collect all those traps … Let’s go inside.”

Three days after the first flamingo rescue, AGUINAOVI organized and carried out an intensive search and removal operation for flamingo traps in the area, using a boat with seven community members involved. A participant stressed that, “these are damages that affect us all. So we have a duty to come and fulfill.” The guides detected and removed 10 flamingo loops (five double traps).

This voluntary initiative serves as an example of the value of tour guides, as a community group, in contributing to threat detection within key biodiversity areas.

Since 2018, AGUINAOVI has participated in a community patrol program of the lagoon, developed by Grupo Jaragua and the North American organization Seacology, which seeks to achieve the conservation of ecosystems and cultures of the islands around the world. The community patrol program was about strengthening the guides’ ability to detect imminent threats to mangroves and associated biodiversity in the lagoon, using a mobile wetland monitoring application with the ODK Collect program. In exchange for patrolling tours, the guides received training sessions on various topics: bird identification, birdwatching, and good nature guidance practices.

Since 2017, Seacology has been working in the Dominican Republic to promote mangrove conservation, through initiatives associated with nature tourism in key mangrove sites such as Oviedo Lagoon, Samaná and Montecristi.

AGUINAOVI not only offers boat tours with local guides to enjoy the beautiful salty lagoon, Laguna de Oviedo, but also serves as a key player in ensuring the protection of its lush mangroves, palm forests, dunes and beaches.

Seacology's grant upgraded the patrol boats used by the Laguna de Oviedo Nature Guides Association.

Oviedo Lagoon is lined by dense mangroves and is a popular birdwatching destination.

Other information

The Oviedo Lagoon is one of the best places for observing waterfowl and lowland birds in the entire country, with about 150 reported species.

The lagoon is very famous for the groups of flamingos that visit it annually from various countries in the region. This elongated 28 square-kilometer lagoon also contains a series of islets or rocky cays inhabited by numerous birds nest the rhinoceros iguana.

AGUIINAOVI was created on the initiative of a group of young people trained as nature guides by Grupo Jaragua (an NGO that works in the Jaragua National Park) and other institutions in 2004.