DR. ARUN KASHYAP // On the Occasion of Launch of the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation’s Biodiversity Project

Feb 22, 2013

• The Hon. Roger Clarke, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries
• Col. Oral Khan, Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change;
• Kenny Benjamin, Executive Chairman, Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation
• Mike Fouraker, CEO Fort Worth Zoo, Texas and Member International Iguana Foundation
• Other Distinguished guests, Ladies & Gentlemen

I am delighted to be here with you at the Hope Zoo on this beautiful afternoon to launch an equally wonderful and an important project for Jamaica.  The project highlights critical elements for the sustainability of a Zoo, viz., “Establishment of Sanctuaries for Protected Flora & Fauna and Providing Energy Efficient Transportation for Educational Tours” at the Hope Zoo. 

We are pleased that this worthy initiative successfully received funding from the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility under its Biodiversity component.  Small Grants Programme implemented by the United Nations Development Programme and supported by the Government, Non-Governmental Organisations and local communities provides catalytic funding for community based activities that advance the objectives and implementation of the global environmental and development conventions. 

As a party to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Jamaica is committed to developing ecologically-representative networks of protected areas that would conserve at least 10% of the remaining national naturally-occurring terrestrial, aquatic and marine flora and fauna.  The National Ecological Gap Assessment Report (NEGAR) of May 2009 commissioned by Jamaica’s Protected Areas Committee identified two objectives to achieve the goal.

1. Identify the shortfalls and barriers that disallow existing protected areas to adequately protect a representative sample of its marine, terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity in the country (also termed as ecological gaps); and

2. Secondly, provide recommendations to bridge the gaps and eliminate barriers to implement necessary conservation measures in the areas.

Several of Jamaica’s species are endemic, and of great national significance.  We are aware of the threats to maintain the integrity of biodiversity ranging from loss of habitat from environmental degradation to illegal poaching including for pet trade.  We look forward to promising evolution and sustainable development of Hope Zoo in advancing environmental education and promoting conservation of biodiversity that contributes to enhancing the quality of life of every Jamaican while complementing Jamaica’s tourist heritage.

By supporting a healthy ecosystem, the conservation of Jamaica’s biodiversity is equally vital national efforts to strengthen climate change adaptation.  Climate change is the most important development issue faced by the global community today especially the small island developing states, such as Jamaica which have a heightened vulnerability to its adverse impacts.  The Government of Jamaica has taken the lead to combat this challenge by creating a Ministry to address Climate Change.  Given the cross-sectoral nature of the impacts of climate change it is equally heartening to see the enhanced commitment of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries too to ensure the well-being of Jamaican farmers and fisher folks.

Given that Jamaica is a global conservation hotspot and it is home to a number of remarkable and unique species of flora and fauna.  It is ranked 5th globally for a number of endemic species.  While making the nation proud for the valuable asset, it also endows responsibility on all Jamaicans to take care of these natural treasures and resources that mark it as a nation, and define its role in the ultimate survival of the planet.

All catalytic actions need partnerships and collaboration to have a viable opportunity for its scaling up and sustainability.  And, for an island economy that depends on tourism it is of greater importance that the national biodiversity assets of flora and fauna are provided an equal opportunity to persevere in fact flourish so that they can be appreciated by Jamaicans as well as visitors to Jamaica while contributing to their education especially the children and enhancing job creation for youth and others.

We therefore appreciate the creative initiative of Kenny Benjamin for assiduously working in making it a reality by mobilizing an equally conscientious team to shape the facility to house the precious biodiversity in Jamaica.  I must also take this opportunity to recognize another leading supporter, Mike Fouraker who in his capacity as CEO of Fort Worth Zoo and member of the International Iguana Foundation contributed his technical expertise and assisted in providing veterinary assistance, health screening and construction of appropriate enclosures for the animals staff while training the relevant staff who are the care givers for the Zoo.

Private sector has to be an equal partner in meeting this important national vision.  Accordingly, the project is keen to engage the private sector and government agencies for support and promotion of such ideas.  Iguanas are now one of the 100 most vulnerable species and need to be protected.  And by building upon local capacity that has shown success in the protection of these iguanas (under the Jamaican Iguana Programme) has to be leveraged to other key local species in a strategic and in iterative manner.    

With increasing numbers of biodiversity projects that are being established, it is now equally important to set up a dynamic and effective policy and implementation platform that could potentially contribute to the global conservation movement through Jamaican experience.

We are looking forward to working with Hope Zoo and advancing the project goals including the establishment of sanctuaries to protect Jamaican fauna and flora through the main project objectives through support for endemic species; including supporting the on-going captive breeding programme for the Jamaican Iguana and the Jamaican Boa Snake and disseminating the biodiversity and conservation information widely not limited to promotion of tourism, education and job creation.

The United Nations Development Programme is committed to partner with government agencies and other stake holders to strengthen the institutional and financial capacity of parks and protected areas, strengthen the policy framework for sustainable land management practices, and introduce the valuation of natural resources in the development approval.

We are hopeful that this initiative will bear fruit, grow and attract more partners and large numbers of visitors. The UNDP is pleased to support your efforts and this project underscores our continued commitment to working with partners to identify and implement appropriate interventions that meet the development needs of Jamaica. This project supports our overarching goal of achieving the targets of the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring that there is sustainable development beyond 2015. The assistance being given to Jamaica will help to further put the country on a path to realizing the Vision 2030 Jamaica, and support Jamaica in making it ‘the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business’. Thank you.

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