Goat Islands to become wildlife sanctuary


Goat Islands to become wildlife sanctuary

Senior staff reporter

Monday, February 10, 2020

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The Government is to build a wildlife sanctuary on Goat Islands costing close to $2 billion.

Parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator Robert Morgan, made the announcement in his contribution to the State of the Nation Debate in the Senate last Friday afternoon.

He said that the Government has made significant policy decisions as they relate to the protection of the environment. He recalled that in 2014 the previous Government had revealed plans for a port to be built on Great Goat Island, which was eventually rejected.

“We, too, saw this amazing economic opportunity but, at the end of the day, we recognised that Goat Island is such a sensitive ecosystem in the Portland Bight Protected Area that we could not trade the protection of our environment for economic benefit, and I am happy to report that this Government, under Andrew Holness, has decided that there would be no port (built) at Goat Island,” he said.

“Even if deciding that there would be no port on Goat Island was the only action that we took, it would have been significant, but the Government has decided that we will be building a wildlife sanctuary at Goat Island (instead),” he added.

He said despite the fact that the Jamaican Iguana is still a protected species, there has been a recognition that more needs to be done to ensure the survival of the species, as well as several other species that exist in Jamaica.

It was under this framework, Morgan said, that the Government will be spending $1,992,416,000 to build out the wildlife sanctuary “so that not only people can go and watch the animals, but we can have scientists go there and study our endemic flora and fauna”.

Senator Morgan also pointed out that the creation of the wildlife sanctuary would ensure the sustainability of the area, and provide a wealth of research opportunities for continued conservation and natural resources management initiatives, locally and abroad.

Great Goat Island and Little Goat Island are two cays located less than a mile off the Jamaican coast, close to the Hellshire Hills in St Catherine. The two cays make up the Goat Islands, which are within the Portland Bight Protected Area.

They were home to the Jamaican Iguana until the 1940s, when the population was said to have become extinct, mainly due to predation by the small Indian mongoose and habitat alteration by feral goats. In 2013, they were the focus of plans by the previous Government for a Chinese-funded transshipment hub, which was eventually rejected.

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