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. 

The Turks and Caicos Islands on February 2nd, 2019, will join the rest of the world in commemorating World Wetlands Day. 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’ (we invite the public to follow our Facebook page www.facebook.com/ticnationaltrust, and website www.tcnationaltrust.org to learn more about the activities). 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.

The Turks & Caicos National Trust exist to safeguard the cultural, historical and natural heritage of the Turks and Caicos Islands. This mission is accomplished through the design and implementation of projects and programmes, involvement of the public and support of partners.

Two critical 3-year projects, in which the National Trust partners with government agencies, private sector and international conservation agencies are the ‘Securing Pockets of Paradise in the Caribbean; embedding capacity for Invasive Alien Species Management in UKOT based organisations,’ funded by the EU-Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Territories (BEST) project, and ‘Saving the Iguana Islands of Turks and Caicos project,’- funded by the UK Government Darwin Plus Initiative.

The aims are similar in both projects, that is; working towards eradication and control of invasive alien species through public awareness, capacity strengthening in local organization partners and conservation management.

The most recent project activities took place during mid-October through to November 2018, focusing on biosecurity trials. Monitoring activities were conducted on Big Ambergris Cay and Little Water Cay, with oversight by team specialists. The team recognizes and appreciates the support of Waterloo Investments Holdings Ltd., the company that owns Big Ambergris Cay, which holds the biggest populations of both the endemic rock iguana Cyclura carinata (Critically Endangered) and the endemic rainbow boa Chilabothrus chrysogatser (not yet assessed).

Little Water Cay staff participated in the biosecurity trials which involved constructing wooden bait stations for rodents. These stations have been placed on location to determine whether rodents prefer wooden bait stations over plastic stations, and ground-based stations over raised stations. Species activities will be monitored very closely and information fed into the biosecurity plan.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is the lead agency in both projects and a long standing partner to the National Trust. The National Trust was also very pleased to assist in coordinating high-level meetings for the RSPB with key partners and with the Minister for Tourism, Environment, Heritage, Maritime and Gaming during this reporting period.

It was indeed gratifying working alongside RSPB representatives on yet another exhilarating phase of the project, and in particular to welcome Mr. Charlie Butt, Caribbean Territories Programme Manager to Turks and Caicos on his first visit. It was more of a reconnaissance mission for Mr. Butt, as he had recently taken up the position at RSPB.

“The Turks and Caicos Islands are home to an extraordinary array of unique and iconic species and natural habitats. It is encouraging to see so many important sites – from wetlands to tropical dry forest – and the homes for wildlife they provide intact, thanks to the partnership work and efforts of so many individuals and organisations” Charlie said, adding that “the RSPB looks forward to deepening its engagement with partners in the Turks and Caicos to ensure these special places are conserved for the wildlife they support and for generations to come.”

The Trust looks forward to continued support from the Ministry for Tourism, Environment, Heritage, Maritime and Gaming throughout the duration of the projects and beyond in safeguarding national treasures, and will strive to forge lasting relationships with international, regional and local agencies to showcase the significance of the Trust’s work in global conservation.

For the period April to September 2018, the Turks & Caicos National Trust has had an intense period of activity that drove and managed improvements across all areas of the organization. Managing heritage sites and public engagement efforts have shown significant results which benefit the organization and the country at large.

A strengthened awareness of TCI’s biodiversity was achieved through the Education and Outreach programme, which mainly comprised of activities through current conservation projects, namely ‘Saving the Iguana islands of TCI Project’ and the ‘Securing Pockets of Paradise in the Caribbean’ – both three (3) -year projects.

There were eight activities organized and executed throughout three islands during the reporting period. The National Trust Education and Outreach staff managed to conduct six school visits to schools on three islands during the reporting period. The staff also coordinated and facilitated a field trip to Half Moon Bay for students through the DARWIN PLUS – ‘Saving the Iguana Islands of Turks and Caicos Project’. Through our public awareness programme, schools are encouraged to visit heritage sites to enable students and teachers an authentic experience of learning about TCI’s heritage. During this reporting period, more than 800 students and teachers visited four heritage sites, namely; Cheshire Hall Plantation Historic Site, Wade’s Green Plantation Ruins, Conch Bar Caves and Little Water Cay Nature Reserve. In respect to the Youth Empowerment Programme, there will be much more to report on in the upcoming quarters, however, the Trust has accepted a proposal from one student of the Holy Family Christian School to implement a community conservation project in partnership with the Trust. Activities include field trips, design and production of posters, design and production of retail merchandise with conservation slogans and schools visitation to establish conservation clubs.

On the scientific side, the team working with the Darwin Initiative, has successfully established effective controls and biosecurity on Little Water Cay and Big Ambergris Cay to provide safe havens for the rock iguanas as well as surveying to better understand them. In this regard, field staff has received conservation management trainings facilitated by scientists from San Diego Zoo. Also, a privately-funded project will begin in April 2019. This aims to remove all rodents and feral cats from Iguana Island, and the adjoining Water Cay and Pine Cay, creating more suitable predator-free habitat for the iguanas. 

Marketing-wise, during the first six months of the institutional year, the National Trust has engaged in many promotional activities which range from social media presence to setting up booths on strategic marketing places throughout the islands. TCNT Facebook followers increased by 8.32% from September of 2017 and numbers are steadily increasing.

TCNT has print and on-air media presence as our staple Radio show ‘Heritage Corner’ continues to be aired weekly and articles featured regularly in the Where When How Magazine. The April-June edition featured the article ‘A Beautiful Karst- Conch Bar Caves’. Subsequently, the organization has published six (6) press releases covering key events organized and implement by TCNT from April to August 2018. Among the most notable activities are the tree-planting on Earth Day, beach cleanup in Five Cays on Biodiversity Day and the celebration of our Ancestors on Emancipation Day held at Cheshire Hall Plantation.    

The public can expect to see more about the National Trust as TCNT’s marketing arm has produced a new brochure designed for promoting heritage sites, visitor questionnaire designed to monitor service performance and a promotional video highlighting the best scenes of TCNT’s heritage sites and service products.

Remaining among the top priorities within the Trust is monitoring heritage sites as these are also important ecological habitats. There were about nine monitoring visits to heritage sites conducted for this reporting period. Reviewing of management plans for heritage sites will form part of the training sessions. The National Trust management saw fit to initiate new project management policies and procedures to improve accountability and communication between the Trust and international partners. Currently 100% of the projects implemented by TCNT are biodiversity/conservation management based. Other areas of training underway are internal administrative procedures and policies.

In keeping with its mandate to safeguard the heritage of the Turks & Caicos Islands, TCNT is pleased to report that the organization has updated its assets list to reflect recent properties acquired by the Trust for the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The document ‘TCNT Holdings’ will be used as a training tool for Trust employees and to disseminate information to the public of properties held in perpetuity for present and future generations of Turks and Caicos Islanders.

Improvement in the management and monitoring of the TCNT small business development programme is ongoing. Areas warrant strengthening have been identified and work is in progress. Designs for new line items have been selected and workshops are slated to commence in the month of November 2018. Information is being collected to create a profile for each artisan who will be benefitting from any assistance being provided through the National Trust’s small business development and management programme.

Financially, the Trust is confident of meeting expectations for the financial year.  Overall, income has increased by 15k in comparison to last period, in part due to the additional $10k from TCIG and increased site tickets sales.  

The Trust looks forward to another productive 6 months ending March 31, 2019.