The Owls Trust Abroad

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The Work We Are Doing Overseas

The Dominican Republic Owl Conservation Project

The Owls Trust Abroad is the programme through which the Trust takes its conservation objectives very seriously indeed. As a Charity and a Zoo, we feel we have a huge obligation to stop species from sliding into an unstoppable decline. You may recall a wonderful series on the BBC called “Last Chance to See” with Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine. Mark went on to write a book about the series, the last chapter of which discusses conservation and the reasons why we often fail in our attempts to keep these animals safe.

“…another reason is the lack of what I call “predictive conservation”. We stand by and watch endangered species slide down the slippery slope towards oblivion and fail to act until their situation is so outrageously dire that they’ve almost reached the point of no return. Take the catastrophic decline of the African lion – a species most of us simply take for granted. Sixty years ago there were half a million in Africa, twenty years ago there were fewer than 200,000, and today there are barely more than 20,000 across the continent. Yet this catastrophic decline seems to be passing the world by unnoticed. I know money is tight, and there are more than enough other animals even closer to extinction, but just how rapidly – and by how much – does a population have to decline before everyone is galvanised into action?”

The Owls Trust Abroad is working in Hispaniola to conserve their endemic Owls before it is too late

Many thanks to Mark for allowing us to use this extract from his book. Copyright Mark Carwardine/Collins/Last Chance to See.

The Owls Trust Abroad, children having a talk about their indigenous owls.

Children in the Dominican Republic meeting an owl for the first time.

The Owls Trust Abroad. The event. Pam Broughton receiving a certificate for their work in the Dominican Republic.

Pamela Broughton with The British Ambassador for the Dominican Republic at his residence in Santo Domingo.

The Event

On the 24th of February 1999, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed by government representatives of the Dominican Republic and the Society for the Conservation and Research of Owls (S.C.R.O.) at Parque Zoologico Nacional (ZOODOM) in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

This agreement was aimed at efforts to conserve the four Owl species endemic to the island of Hispaniola and remains the first agreement to conserve endemic Owl species supported by a government agency anywhere in the world. The four Owls are;

  • The Ashy Faced Owl (Tyto glaucops)
  • The Hispaniola Short Eared Owl (Asio flammeus domingensis)
  • The Hispaniola Stygian Owl (Asio stygius noctipetens)
  • The Hispaniola Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia troglodytes)

The agreement highlighted the urgent need to support these unique Owls in their efforts to adapt to a changing environment in a country in which 85% of the original habitat has been replaced by plantations, agricultural land, human settlements and tourist centres. This was part of a global undertaking by S.C.R.O. to secure and ensure the existence of Owl species that are threatened by human population growth and human activities on our planet. After a bright start, the Project over the years began to face a number of problems due in the main to staff changes and other priorities.

In 2009 a new leader, The Owls Trust (The Owls Trust Abroad), was asked to take over control of the D.R.O.C. Project and The Owls Trust Abroad was invited to the Dominican Republic by ZOODOM to research the next stages required to place this effort at the forefront of tropical Owl conservation throughout the world.

The Goal

  • To enhance the population of the Owl species and subspecies
  • endemic to the islands of Hispaniola and
  • to save them from extinction.

Because there is no person, organization or government able to stop the transformation of wilderness into cultivated land and tree plantations the extinction of numerous plant and animal species is foreseeable. The survival of many species now depends on the creation of nature reserves and zoos which, like islands in an ocean of humans, are also burdened with serious problems.

The D.R.O.C.P. partners see the future survival of most Owl species as not dependent upon the creation of nature reserves and zoos but, because of the Owl’s adaptability and harmlessness, as dependent on these birds living among people in a transformed environment of the future.

The goal is to solve the inability of the Owls to adapt to the speed at which we are destroying the wilderness with the resulting catastrophic consequences.

The Owls Trust Abroad, children having a talk about their indigenous owls.
The Owls Trust Abroad, Education. A group of children meeting their first owl.

Children in the Dominican Republic meeting an owl for the first time.

Education

It is much more desirable to make it possible for an Owl species to live in an environment altered by man than have it on a small reservation of protected land.

Here, education, especially in schools for children who are the adults of tomorrow, has to come into play. Besides keeping and breeding these Owls, Zoodom has a tremendous opportunity to play a leading role in educating the people of the Dominican Republic. Displaying some Owls to the public so that people can see them at close range, and perhaps even touch them, would have long-lasting effects. This educational programme has to be done and is equal in importance to all the breeding programmes and fieldwork.

Without the ability of the common man to share our ever-increasingly crowded world with other living