The critically endangered Bonaire palm tree (Sabal lougheediana) exists only on the Caribbean island of Bonaire, just north of Venezuela—and its foothold there is precarious. Only about 25 mature trees are left, making it one of the world’s rarest plants. And as old trees die, there are no new ones to replace them. Any new seedlings that poke up from the ground are quickly eaten by the feral donkeys and goats that roam the island.
Seacology is funding a fence, three-quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometers) long, that will keep the island’s grazing animals away from most of the last surviving Bonaire palms. The fence will encircle an area of about 35 acres, which contains the densest stand of trees. Our local partner is a Bonaire conservation organization, BonBèrdè, which has built similar fences on other parts of the island.
The fence will improve conditions not only for the palm, but also for all other native plants and animals on the island. Because the fence will keep the goats and donkeys out, the newly enclosed area will see a rapid increase in vegetation cover and diversity. The only large native terrestrial animals on Bonaire, iguanas and lizards, will have no trouble passing through the fence.
A Seacology grant will also fund a program to grow and plant palm seedlings, to help ensure the future of the species. The Montgomery Botanical Center in Coral Gables, Florida will operate the propagation program.