Volunteer Patrol members
Thanks to caring donors like you, we were able to hold a second seabird training workshop this summer, resulting in 19 more Volunteer Patrol members. The participants are energized and already to putting their new skills to use in protecting vulnerable wildlife refuges.
The first day of training was a classroom session which covered how to identify seabirds by species, including a lively quiz session, how to enter data, and conservation issues. There was also a discussion of local, traditional knowledge regarding seabirds, such as which species foretell a change in the weather or indicate a certain type of fish is present. The classroom session culminated with participants proudly displaying their signed pledge to protect seabirds as members of the Volunteer Patrol.
The second day was a field lesson within the Tobago Cays Marine Park aboard a beautiful sailing ship. Observing nesting seabirds from the boat, one participant, a veteran fisherman, exclaimed with surprise that he didn’t know birds were nesting there. Each participant received a pair of binoculars and learned how to use them, practicing their new seabird identification skills with success.
All trainees joined the Facebook and WhatsApp groups for Patrol members; this enables easy communication and a community of support for members, who are dispersed throughout the island chain. Members are active in posting questions, photos, and recent observations. For example, we recently put out a call for help on this network, needing to know if there are rats on a particular island for a grant funding request. Members promptly responded with their observations and will be visiting the island to confirm if rats are there.
Observations are also made independently; when fishermen or tour operators are at sea, they take time to visit nearby islands and record data. For each data sheet, the volunteers are reimbursed for their fuel costs, an essential component for many who are struggling financially.
It is now hurricane season in the Caribbean, a time when few birds are nesting. However, this winter and the following summer the birds will return to raise their young. Patrol members will be there, providing crucial data on the number of nests, what types of invasive predators like rats are found, and evidence of harvesting by people. Crucially, they are also serving as educators and advocates for wildlife and protected areas in their communities.
With your continued generosity, this community of conservationists will keep growing through additional workshops and one-on-one support. Data is already showing increased numbers of nesting birds on certain islands while observations of seabird harvesting are fewer. We are excited to keep this momentum going, empowering citizens to make a difference in protecting the remarkable diversity and beauty of Caribbean wildlife refuges. Thank you making this project possible!