FFI: Promoting Conservation in Nicaragua

With its stated vision being to promote a ‘sustainable future for the planet, where biodiversity is effectively conserved by the people who live closest to it, supported by the global community’, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is working on more than 140 projects located in more than 40 countries on five continents – including Nicaragua. With seven different types of forest, each with its own unique range of animals, plants and other species, Nicaragua’s biodiversity is astounding. But, as is the case in many parts of the world, this rich biodiversity is threatened by habitat destruction and other factors, despite ongoing efforts being made by Nicaragua’s authorities to protect it.

Among the projects that FFI is currently working on is the promotion of Ometepe island in Lake Nicaragua as a Biosphere Reserve. Working with local partners, the FFI proposed a plan, which is currently being implemented, for managing the Ometepe’s Maderas Volcano Natural Reserve with the emphasis on promoting eco-tourism as a means of generating sustainable income. Covering an area of 276 square kilometers, Ometepe is one of the largest freshwater islands in the world. It consists of two volcanoes linked by a strip of wetland, with an amazing variety of habitats ideal for supporting wildlife, particularly birds, and is a key location for migratory birds to stop-over when traveling between the United States and Canada to Central and South America. The island was declared as a National Cultural Heritage Site and Natural Reserve in 1995, but did not have an active conservation plan. FFI started work on the island in 2005 and have assisted in building the island’s first conservation headquarters with park rangers equipped to deal with the challenges of managing the natural resources of Ometepe. In June 2010, the entire island of Ometepe was listed as Nicaragua’s third UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Other FFI projects in Nicaragua include working with local government to expand conservation organizations, supporting training programs and assisting with the implementation of organizational governance. In an effort to curtail the illegal harvesting of Leatherback, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtle eggs from their nesting grounds along the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, FFI has trained more than eighty members of local communities to protect these threatened species – with a heartening level of success. Moreover, communities which previously killed hawksbill turtles to use their shells for jewelry have been assisted in finding other ways of making a living. Conservation efforts also include raising public awareness of the damage being done by buying these products – turtle eggs and turtle shell jewelry – thereby reducing demand and removing the incentive for plundering these precious resources.

The FFI is also working with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to protect the dry forests along the Pacific coast – Nicaragua’s most populated region. Here again, conservation efforts focus on cooperation with local communities to promote sustainable means of making a living. Visitors to the spectacular country of Nicaragua can do their bit for conservation efforts by buying souvenirs made from sustainable resources and by supporting ecotourism.