Imagine this: you are walking on our property near the Corales resort, and you notice a sign that there are hawks nearby. You look up and get a glimpse of one of the world’s most endangered species: the Ridgway’s hawk.
Though a bit smaller than some of the larger hawks in the world, this light grey bird is a definite sight to see, and something that previous visitors to the island would only have been likely to see at Los Haitises National Park. If you’re lucky enough to see them in February or March, you may even get to see them diligently building their nests in some of the taller trees on the resort.
Four years ago the Peregrine Fund and the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation undertook an experimental project to reintegrate the Ridgway’s hawk back into the wild in Punta Cana. We are happy to say that this experiment has been a great success, and 2014 marks a standout year in which 29 individual hawks were released into the wild. Prior to 2014, the most successful year had only nine hawks released into the wild. The success of the project in 2014 shows us coming closer to the eventual goal of having a self-sustaining population of hawks in Punta Cana. However, the hard work isn’t over and there is still a lot to be done.
As mentioned previously, the only permanent habitat for the Ridgway’s hawk was Los Haitises National Park. This is changing given the exceptional year that we’ve had releasing hawks into the wild, but Los Haitises continues to be an important part of the work we’re doing to protect the endangered hawks. All of our hawks originally were taken from the populations at Los Haitises, thoroughly checked for any signs of illness, and then released. Luckily, multiple pairs of birds released in Punta Cana are now able to breed and expand the population right here in Punta Cana.
In fact, last year’s nesting efforts were so successful that The Peregrine Fund increased their efforts for 2014 and was able to release 29 hawks total, which is more than all of the previous releases combined. Furthermore, 2014 marks the first time that the project took care of chicks for the first month of their lives and then released them in the wild in Punta Cana, hoping this would cause their family to renest in Punta Cana. All in all, 2014 was a wildly successful year for the project, and it even celebrated its own holiday.
Ridgway’s Hawk Day takes place on May 25 and is our attempt to educate the local community about Ridgway’s hawks and provide information about how they can help these endangered birds. May 25 was chosen to commemorate the day last year that the first chick was hatched outside of Los Haitises National Park in over 30 years. School children from the local barrios were invited to the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation to learn more about the hawks and see them up close and personal. Education is a high priority given that human intervention is one of the largest factors affecting endangered species. We want to make sure that people who come in contact with these hawks will treat them with respect and help them thrive.
As with the sea turtles, the Ridgway’s hawk is critically endangered, which means that they face a very real threat of extinction. The PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation and the Peregrine Fund are working hard to ensure the Ridgway’s hawk has a new, permanent population in Punta Cana, and the results of the project, especially in 2014, have been very promising. So, if you are on our resort and you see a sign for hawks, look up and enjoy the sight of a hawk that would not be there were it not for the hard work of many volunteers and experts.
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