Local conservation management agencies, the Turks and Caicos National Trust (TCNT) and the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), will be spearheading activities under the theme ‘Wetlands and Climate Change’. A very significant highlight for wetlands conservation this year is the launch of a very prestigious project that will focus on wetlands in Providenciales.

The UK Government’s Darwin Plus initiative funding agency has just announced funding for 17 conservation projects worth more than £3.5 million in the UK Overseas Territories to deliver commitments in a 25 Year Environment Plan.

Of these 17 projects, the Turks and Caicos Islands along with two other Caribbean UK Overseas Territories, Anguilla and Montserrat will benefit from one cross territory project to protect four wetland sites. The Turks and Caicos component of the project will focus on the Wheeland Ponds in Providenciales. Local conservation partners have identified the Wheeland Ponds as a critical ecological site and have organized annual World Wetlands Day activities around the ponds for the past five years.

The project is timely in that the Office of the Premier recently launched the country’s Climate Change Initiative with the completion of the territory’s first climate change policy. The wetlands project also fits squarely within the remit of the Trust and the organization’s heritage protection and sustainable development goals for 2019.

Caribbean wetlands are very important ecological sites. They provide habitat for birds, nursery for juvenile fish, and other services such as protection from flooding and storm surges. Yet our wetlands face threats. Threats from illegal dumping, excavation and backfilling. These unhealthy activities contribute to the destruction and degradation of wetlands.

The National Trust is indeed elated to participate in such an esteemed project which is intended to raise the level of awareness towards the ecological services provided by our wetlands, develop management plans, implement action plans to restore wetlands and enhance terrestrial boundaries by installing informative signage. Other outputs from the project are; to sensitize and mobilize communities neighboring wetlands to become involved in wise management of such ecosystems and reap the benefits of sustainable management of wetlands in the Turks and Caicos Islands with off shoots of entrepreneurial initiatives.

The wetlands project is indeed an opportunity for citizens and residents of the Turks and Caicos to learn more about this particular ecosystem and appreciate the wonderful natural world of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Twin Islands North and Middle Caicos are teeming with wetlands and wildlife; a fitting place to celebrate World Wetlands Day, activities of which were observed on February 1st & 2nd, 2019.

The two-day observance included school talk and field study which involved Primary and High School students, along with community volunteers, staff of the Turks & Caicos National Trust and DECR. Aside from highlighting the importance of wetlands to TCI’s ecology, participants were educated about the plight of our Rock Iguanas, under the theme: “Wetlands and Climate Change: Its impact on our endemic Rock Iguanas”.

On Friday, February 1st, the day was spent in the classrooms on North and Middle Caicos, educating our students about wetlands and the affects that climate change may have on the environment and our wildlife.  Students were engaged with a fun activity with information about the wetlands and its impact on the rock iguanas’ habitats. They were then quizzed with questions designed from the information provided. 

On the next day, February 2nd, the team spent the day in the field as students participated in a survey exercise. There were discussion and activities that were designed to teach Iguana etiquette, their habitat and the impact that climate change has on their ever changing habitats. 

This collaboration between the National Trust and DECR is sponsored by the UK-funded Darwin Plus Project with its flagship initiative ‘Saving the Iguana Islands of the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Project.