Hope Zoo offers skills training as part of Jamaican Iguana conservation programme

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Hope Zoo offers skills training as part of Jamaican Iguana conservation programme

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Hope Zoo Kingston is urging the communities of Hellshire Hills to help with the conservation of the endemic Jamaican Iguana, and has disclosed that it is offering training programmes as part of that effort.

“We want the community to become a part of the Jamaican Iguana conservation programme as a matter of necessity,” said Orlando Robinson, project consultant for the Hope Zoo Iguana Headstart Project. “Community participation and partnership is key to the success of any conservation effort.”

Robinson explained that the dry limestone forest of the Hellshire Hills, which is part of the Portland Bight Protected Area, is a critical site for the survival of the Jamaican Iguana and for Jamaica’s biodiversity. It has, however, been under threat from users including small farmers, animal rearers, wood cutters and flower harvesters.

“The forest users may not realise how they are impacting the habitats. They are providing for their families in the ways they know, but we want them to know that, 1) they are operating in a protected area and 2) the Hope Zoo Headstart Programme is willing to train them for income alternatives," said Robinson.

The conservation plan allows for training in all HEART Trust/NSTA programmes offered at the Portmore campus and Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) Team Jamaica training through Portmore Community College.

“The Headstart Project is also excited to have the Ministry of Agriculture offer beekeeper training,” Robinson shared.

Community members who are eligible to access the training are the forest users, their life partners, their children who are 18 years or older and still live with their parents.

“If you are an unemployed and unattached youth, 18 and older, who is thinking of using the forest in the ways we have mentioned, we can help you to develop an alternative income,” Robinson urged.

Interested individuals can contact the Hope Zoo Kingston at 876-970-2459 or via hopezooja@gmail.com and should indicate their area of interest along with their contact information.

“We will then contact persons and invite them to scheduled meetings to discuss their eligibility. It should be noted that only persons with a TRN will qualify for HEART programmes or courses,” Robinson said.

The Jamaican Iguana (scientific name Cyclura collie) was declared extinct in 1948. In 1990, however, a pig hunter stumbled upon a live specimen of the species, which he handed over to the Hope Zoo. The specimen was later confirmed to be the Jamaican Iguana and its species recovery plan started.

Since then, Hope Zoo Kingston has housed hundreds of the iguana hatchlings from the wild for approximately five years or until they are at a size to be reintroduced to the natural habitat.

The Hope Zoo Headstart Programme is funded by a grant from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (implemented by United Nations Development Programme. The project has been hailed as a crucial part of bringing the Jamaican Iguana back from extinction, and has received worldwide acclaim for conservation success.

With all that success in the zoo, our aim is really to reintroduce these precious animals into the wild,” Robinson said. “The project aims, in part, to counter the negative effects of human activity in the Jamaican Iguana habitat by providing forest users with other income streams that would reduce their dependence on forest resources.”

Hope Zoo Kingston is operated by the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation.

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