Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR

 
$73,387
$21,613
Raised
Remaining
Mar 5, 2012

2012 First Project Report

Cornell students observing birds in the PC Resort
Cornell students observing birds in the PC Resort

The new year of 2012 has been an especially busy one
for the previously reintroduced Ridgeway’s Hawks to Punta Cana. Immediately
after Christmas through the New Year an unprecedented number of birding
tourists came to the PuntaCana Resort & Club to partake in free birding
tours with renowned tropical ornithologist Dr. Andre Dhondt and his wife Keila.
During these tours several lucky birders had the opportunity to observe one of
the world’s rarest hawks in the comfortable resort setting around the PC Ecological
Foundation. Besides helping to push a nascent but growing birding tourism
industry in the area these amateur observations also help employees of the
Hispaniola Ornithological Society and the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation keep
tabs on the birds.

After the holidays Dr. Andre Dhondt stayed in the area to teach his annual
tropical ornithology course to visiting students from Cornell University. In
addition to providing a great learning experience for Cornell students of all
academic disciplines, their daily logs of birds seen help provide valuable
information regarding species diversity and density in the area. Over the past
several years we have been able to observe important trends in the increase of
some species and the relative decrease of others.


Since mid-January, Virginia Tech students studying abroad for the 2012 Spring
Semester at the PC Ecological Foundation have been volunteering their time to
track the previously reintroduced hawks and are now pairing this experience
with their Tropical Ornithology course. This week the VT students also had the
opportunity to observe and assist visiting researchers from the Peregrine Fund
and the Hispaniola Ornithological Society to trap and re-outfit previously
introduced females with new back packs for continued radio tracking. 


The next reintroduction is programed to begin in April, 2012, for which we will
be renovating the hack site complete with a new spotting scope and tripod to make viewing the hawks more accessible for visiting researchers and birders alike. The PuntaCana Ecological Foundation has recruited a birding
tourism guide, supported in part by the PuntaCana Resort & Club, who in
addition to offering general birding tours will also offer tours specifically
focusing on the Ridgeway’s program. As we enter the fourth year of the
reintroduction program raising awareness about the hawk and the combined
efforts of the Hispaniola Ornithological Society, the Peregrine Fund, and the
Punta Cana Ecological Foundation to ensure the survival of the species
continues to be one of the primary focuses of the program.

Dr. Andre Dhondt with his 2012 students
Dr. Andre Dhondt with his 2012 students
Nov 15, 2011

November, 2011 Report

2011 introductee
2011 introductee

The third reintroduction of the Ridgeways Hawk has successfully moved on from the intensive periods of constant observation and intervention. The two biologists from the Hispaniola Ornithological Society assigned to the 2011 program have returned to the United States and now the responsibilities of observation and data collection has passed to visiting conservationists associated with the Hispaniola Ornithological Society and the Peregrine Fund. By participating in this program visiting conservationists provide not just observational data but also an invaluable exchange of best practices and experiences with similar programs with other species in other countries.

Participation in the reintroduction program has also begun to spread outside of the scientific community. Tourists, local residents and hotel employees alike have recently become active participants in the program by volunteering their time to help track, observe and record basic observational behavior.  One of the cornerstones of each reintroduction programs is a comprehensive educational outreach campaign to local schools, hotel employees and interested individuals; volunteers are proving to be a very effective vehicle for spreading knowledge based off of first hand experience with plight of this critically endangered species. Moving forward we hope to continually increase the involvement and support of a diverse array of international volunteers and experts alike in the Ridgeways Hawk program in order to foster a tourism industry that is more aware of the importance and involved in the conservation island biodiversity.

Recent Filming
Recent Filming
Photo by Carlos
Photo by Carlos
Aug 3, 2011

Project Report 31/07/2011

The first 4 hawks released in
The first 4 hawks released in '11 sitting together

In 2011, the Ridgway’s Hawk Project continued to monitor nests and collect nestlings for release sites in Punta Cana and Pedro Sanchez.  In all, biologists monitored 37 nests in Los Haitises National Park and chicks were chosen from a total of eight nests.  In addition to monitoring the nests, our team also actively treated birds with botfly infestations and reconstructed several falling nests.  Parasitic infections early on in life are a serious threat to the existing population of Ridgway’s Hawks in Los Haitises; had these parasites not been removed many of the chicks would have died.  These conservation efforts were made for nestlings taken for the release programs and also to increase the numbers of birds that would ultimately fledge in Los Haitises National Park. 

This year Punta Cana released a total of six new Ridgway’s Hawks.  These six birds were released in pairs several weeks apart.  The first release was in mid-April and the last on the 13th of June.  Without the diligent work of our team four of these birds would have certainly died due to parasitism by botflies. Young birds were treated in the field approximately a week before being removed from the nests to come to the hacksite and again once they arrived in Punta Cana.  The hawks responded well to this treatment and all were able to be successfully released.

In addition to releasing Ridgway’s Hawks, the project continues to educate locals and foreigners alike as well as training interested volunteers.  In the past two months volunteers from the Hispaniola Ornithological Society have visited from other release sites to compare notes and learn from each other’s experiences.  This year a student from Columbia University used the Ridgway’s Hawk releases as the subject of a six week long research project.  Students from other universities, such as Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology and San Diego State, also became involved.  By involving these outside parties we are both drawing attention to this conservation effort and opening up the program to further dialogue about how to improve the program in the future.

Apr 27, 2011

2011's Reintroduction

Chick in its nest in Los Haitises
Chick in its nest in Los Haitises

In April 2011, the Ecological Foundation and project partners Peregrine Fund and the Hispaniola Ornithological Society began their third reintroduction of Ridgeway Hawks in Punta Cana. As is with every year, the Hawks and their nesting sites were carefully monitored for months before several chicks were carefully selected as potential candidates for reintroduction. Scientists from the Peregrine Fund and the Hispaniola Ornithological Society safely removed, transported, and outfitted the Hawks with their radio transmitters before introducing them into the hacking box.

The hacking box has since been opened and all four of the juveniles are currently exploring their new surroundings and returning to the hacking box to feed. Within the next two weeks our project partners will return with two final juvenile hawks to complete this year’s goal of reintroducing six hawks. At present the four recently reintroduced hawks are being monitored throughout the day (though often from a distance so as not to scare them while they are still familiarizing themselves with the area) and monitoring of the older, established, hawks continues as always as well.

Inspecting the Hawk for any injuries or illnesses
Inspecting the Hawk for any injuries or illnesses
Attaching the radio tracking backpack
Attaching the radio tracking backpack
Jan 24, 2011

Project Report 21/01/2011

Tracking the Hawk
Tracking the Hawk's Signal

The most recently reintroduced five Hawks are fast approaching their one year anniversary in their new home here in Punta Cana (and the original group is almost at their 2 year anniversary!) and all seem to be fully adjusted to their new surroundings. In mid-Novemeber an employee of the Hispaniola Ornithological Society came to evaluate the well being of each of the hawks, after just two short days of observation he was able to ascertain that all of the hawks were healthily adjusting to their new habitat and no intervention was needed for any of the individuals. 

Since that time, the reintroduction program has therefore been able to switch gears and focus more on community involvement in the program. Various members of the community now act in a volunteer capacity helping the staff of the Ecological Foundation locate and document the activities of the hawks. Students groups visiting the Ecological Foundation are also getting involved and volunteering their time to look for the hawks. The photos attached with this report show two employees of the Ecological Foundation out looking for one of the male Hawks, designated AX, which was resting a tree near a clearing.

At this time both the Hispaniola Ornithological Society and the PUNTACANA Ecological Foundation are preparing for the new nesting season and a new batch of chicks to reintroduce to the area.

Male Hawk AX
Male Hawk AX
Hawk AX
Hawk AX
Sighting the Hawk
Sighting the Hawk

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Organization

Puntacana Ecological Foundation

Santo Domingo, n/a, Dominican Republic
http://www.puntacana.org

Project Leader

Jacob Kheel

Environmental Director
Santo Domingo, N/A Dominican Republic

Where is this project located?

Map of Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR