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Dominican Republic

Oviedo Lagoon

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Conservation benefit: Community patrol and monitoring in Jaragua National Park

Community benefit: Capacity-building and infrastructure for ecotourism

Date Approved: 06.2017

Mangroves

This project protects mangroves, which trap more CO2 than any other kind of forest and as a result, slow global warming.

Jaragua National Park, located in the Dominican Republic’s extreme southwest, was established in 1983. There are very few park rangers, however, and virtually no patrolling of the park’s 593 square miles.

Oviedo Lagoon is one of the largest mangrove areas (16,000 acres) in the park and is part of an internationally recognized Ramsar wetlands site. The area provides nesting habitat for aquatic birds, including threatened or declining species such as the West Indian whistling duck, reddish egret, white-crowned pigeon, roseate spoonbill, and Caribbean flamingo. Other species found in the lagoon include the vulnerable rhinoceros iguana and blue land crab. The endangered West Indian manatee has also been reported on the ocean side.

Dominican NGO Grupo Jaragua has worked with local people to promote nature tourism of the lagoon for over 10 years. However, tourism at the lagoon remains low. To get to the popular sites on the eastern shore, tourists must take small fishing boats from a visitors’ center on the north shore in El Cajuil.

To improve tourists’ experience, Seacology is funding mangrove-related interpretative materials at the visitors’ center, a lookout tower, and dock area. Tour guides will improve their boats, and more local people, including women, will get training as nature guides. In exchange, the Laguna de Oviedo Guides Association will patrol the lagoon for threats, such as poaching of birds’ eggs, mangrove cutting, and black-crowned pigeon hunting. The guides will also monitor and document bird activity, particularly that of the Caribbean flamingo. Finally, they will carry out surveillance and cleanup of mangrove areas and report irregularities to Grupo Jaragua.

Project Updates

May 2019

All planned activities have been completed, and the project is at its concluding stage. Thanks to the project, guides from the association AGUINAOVI have become more active, and elected a new directing board. A web page (www.grupojaragua.org.do/lagunadeoviedo), describes each tour/route and gives its price. The decorated guide boats have been a huge success: Boat owners and captains are very proud of their boats’ illustrations of the lagoon’s fauna and flora. Tourists have also provided positive feedback, with some requesting particular boats. The waterproof pocket guides to the aquatic and lowland birds have been well received by visitors, birders, national and international tourists, guides, and the association members.

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February 2019

This project is in its final phase. An “Aquatic and Lowland Bird Identification Pocket Guide,” which includes most of the birds seen at Oviedo Lagoon, has been published by partner organization Grupo Jaragua. Training workshops on bird watching techniques and identification have taken place, and Grupo Jaragua has added a page to their website with descriptions of the tours and pricing. The Oviedo Lagoon community is very enthusiastic about the project. Seacology Senior Manager of Special Initiatives Karen Peterson and DR Field Representative Leida Buglass visited the project in January 2019.

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June 2018

Project partner Grupo Jaragua (GJ) has met with the guide association to discuss tour routes, pricing etc. A workshop was held regarding mangrove and bird identification, followed by boat tours to gain knowledge about each guide’s style. Along with the flamingo, iguana and mangrove tours, a nearby archaeological site with pre-Hispanic petroglyphs is being added. GJ is working to publish a web page for the tours. Bird identification brochures, including water-resistant options, will be printed soon. A local artist has painted the tour boats with illustrations of flora and fauna, chosen by the boat owner. The boats also have new, tailor-made shading tarps. Many boat owners and captains feel very proud about their unique illustrations. Binoculars for birdwatching have been purchased, but not distributed yet. A basic smartphone app for monitoring is being developed; this will allow tour operators to submit data on mangroves and associated fauna, as well as report any observed threats. A monitoring program workshop will be held in June or July. New signs have been installed with the cooperation of the Ministry of the Environment. Finally, GJ expects to conduct media tours to the lagoon this coming summer and fall.

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