Hawksbill Project            

               Dominican Republic












   What is a hawksbill? 


Hawksbills (Eretmochelys imbricata) are the most tropical of all seven sea turtles in the world.  They are most commonly found in coral reefs, where they feeds mainly on marine sponges. 



 Conservation Status 


Currently, hawksbill populations are very depleted around the world.  Because of this, hawksbills are considered a critically endangered species under the UICN's Red Data Book, and its international trade is strictly prohibited by CITES.  


Despite its poor conservation status, hawksbills continue to be threatened by two main causes: 


1) Hawksbills are still hunted for their meat, eggs, and shell (also known as tortoiseshell).  Tortoiseshell is used to make crafts that in the Dominican Republic are sold in tourist souvenir shops, locally known as "gift shops".  Also, in Japan there is a very elaborated tortoiseshell craft known as Bekko that has a very high traditional value.  


2) Every day hawksbills lose their habitat.  Both its feeding places (such as coral reefs) and its nesting places (sandy beaches) are being increasingly destroyed or degraded by humans, for a number of reasons, including development and pollution. 



  Project Description


In the spring of 1996, out of the initiative of Carlos Diez and Robert van Dam (from the Mona Island Hawksbill Research Project) and in coordination with the Dominican NGO Grupo Jaragua, we started conducting in-the-water surveys in the area of Jaragua National Park, in the Dominican Southwest coast.  Soon, we identified a number of hawksbill foraging habitats and started an intensive hawksbill tagging and monitoring study


The Dominican Republic Hawksbill project is one of the few multi-year projects conducting foraging area research for this species in the region (along with the Mona Island, PR and Buck Island Reef projects, USVI).  In addition, the high density of hawksbills found in the Dominican study area (León and Diez 1999) has offered a unique opportunity to study a relatively large number of individuals.  Finally, the Project’s consistency in methods through time and its comparability with other on-going efforts in the region place it in a privileged position for drawing lessons in hawksbill foraging area research.  Our work has been greatly facilitated by having reliable and well-trained local field assistants.  Even though ocasional volunteers have been of great help, working with the same team has increased our efficiency.  Investing in training and preserving these assistants has been paramount to the success of our project. 



Last Updated: 08 Nov 2007

Questions or coments about this page? contact: Yolanda León



Este es un proyecto del Grupo Jaragua