Vegetation surveys have found 53 species endemic to the Del Este area and 84 native to the Dominican Republic. There are four mangroves species in the park, and the trees provide important nesting habitat for the endangered white-crowned pigeon. Of the 144 species of birds found in the park, nine are endemic to the island and 11 endemic to the Caribbean region. Sensitive species include the Hispaniolan parrot, red-footed booby, herring gull, magnificent frigate bird, and the peregrine falcon.
The majority of Hispaniola’s mammals are represented within Del Este. The Hispaniolan solenodon, a small, shrew-like mammal, and the hutia, a large rodent, are both endemic to the Caribbean and threatened with extinction. In addition, there are rhinoceros iguanas, six species of snakes, ten species of lizards, and three species of crabs. Endangered marine species include the Caribbean manatee and loggerhead, green, and hawksbill turtles. The peninsula’s coastal areas feature intact mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and coral reefs—all key ecosystems of the Central Caribbean marine ecoregion. These ecosystems are vital for the long-term viability of species such as conch, lobster, grouper and snapper, and other species which are utilized for human consumption.
Colonization, agriculture, and deforestation for charcoal production, are all current threats to the park. Charcoal is produced by local communities living around and within Del Este, causing degradation of terrestrial habitats and a reduction in local honey production. Overfishing and hunting have diminished populations of fish, lobster, queen conch, mollusks, and the endangered white-crowned pigeon. The local hotel industry, whose activities have been one of the greatest threats to the park, has welcomed Ecoparque’s ecotourism initiative proposal, demonstrating their interest in “greener” operations.
A Strategy of Success
When the Parks in Peril Program (PiP) began supporting Del Este in 1993, the park was already one of the better-known parks in the Dominican Republic due to its high visitation rates and the revenues generated from park fees. A management plan had been written for the park in 1984, yet without a financial plan to accompany it, the management plan was never implemented. With the exception of the Dominican Park Service staff, there was no consolidated constituency concerned with Del Este; infrastructure was minimal, and in many cases it was completely absent.
Initiation of the PiP project focused on the development of partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organizations. These partnerships then concentrated efforts on improving park infrastructure, improving baseline information about Del Este’s natural resources, building a constituency for the site at the local and national levels, and producing a management and financial plan for the park.
Many advances have been made through six years of PiP implementation. Three Dominican nonprofits lead a vibrant constituency for the park: ECOPARQUE, a locally-based organization that works closely with communities; MAMMA, a non-governmental organization focused on protecting the marine resources of the park; and PRONATURA, a nonprofit that contributes technical and administrative oversight. Important ecological and resource-utilization data have been compiled and used in the development of terrestrial and marine habitat maps and recommendations for improving park management. The local communities surrounding the park are much more engaged in park management and resource use issues than in the past, and work closely with local PiP partners. Significant strides have been made in improving critical park infrastructure to accommodate the thousands of tourists that visit Del Este on a monthly basis.
The local hotel industry, whose activities have been one of the greatest threats to the park, has welcomed Ecoparque and is embracing “greener” operations. Hoteliers have committed $140,000 to contract the Caribbean Association for Sustainable Tourism (CAST) to develop a plan for the hotels to obtain Green Globe certification. ECOPARQUE has served as the critical link between the hotel industry and local communities, acting as the catalyst for educating tour operators and directly employing local tour guides. ECOPARQUE has developed and solidified this role, making its program the principle force in educating tourists and tour operators about the values and conservation needs of Del Este.
Upon site consolidation at Del Este, the PiP program created a strong foundation for conservation of the park by providing the staff of ECOPARQUE, PRONATURA, and MAMMA with the capacity to administer necessary technical support for conservation efforts in the park.
Read more about Del Este...
The Nature Conservancy in Del Este