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Jaragua National Park

Jaragua National Park

This Park is located in the southwestern part of the Barahona Peninsula, near the southwestern border of the Dominican Republic. It includes within its limits the islands of Beata and Alto Velo, as well as Los Frailes and Piedra Negra cays. With an area of 1,374 km2, Jaragua is one of the largest protected areas in the insular Caribbean.

Jaragua National Park constitutes one of the few remaining areas of pristine Antillean wild lands, particularly those occurring in arid and coastal-marine ecosystems. The park sustains a unique sample of numerous ecosystems belonging to important biogeographic provinces of Hispaniola, which historically has served as center of plant and animal speciation for the Caribbean. Jaragua National Park represents the only portion of coastal marine lowlands of the "South Paleoisland" of Hispaniola under protection. Hispaniola was formed by two ancient islands, which were independently colonized by plant and animals, which underwent independent speciation processes. It is the only place of Hispaniola where the natural geographic distribution of several faunal groups overlaps, having all species of each taxa represented. As a result, the Park’s flora and fauna are unique, presenting high levels of endemism, both at the species and higher taxa levels.

Creation

Jaragua National Park was established in 1983 by Presidential Decree No. 1315 of August 11. It has an area of 1 374 km², of which 905 km² are marine. The technical studies that supported its designation as a National Park were conducted during 1981-1982 by the Sub-ministry of Natural Resources (Subsecretaría de Recursos Naturales) from the Ministry of Agriculture, with cooperation from the German Social - Technical Cooperation Service (DED). Currently the Park is under the administration of the Protected Area and Biodiversity Sub-secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat.
Jaragua also serves as habitat to numerous species of native, endemic, and migratory birds. One-hundred and thirty bird species are known for the Park, of which 76 are residents, 10 are endemics, and 47 are migratory. The island’s largest population of white-crowned pigeon (Columba leucocephala) forms enormous breeding colonies in the Park, possible the largest in the West Indies. Furthermore, Jaragua has the most important population of the plain pigeon (Columba inornata), an West Indian endangered species. In some of its offshore islands and cays breeds the largest known Caribbean colony of the sooty tern (Sterna fuscata).

Jaragua National Park also serves as a refuge for important relict populations of both native and endemic mammals. Some of these are under imminent danger of extinction, such as the hutía (Plagiodontia aedium) and the solenodon (Soledonodon paradoxus). Also, 11 bat species have been reported for the Park. The endangered West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus), lives and forages in the extensive sea grass beds of the Park. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are frequently sighted near Alto Velo island.

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