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This message does not concern birds per se, but bird conservationists.  
Some folks on this listserve were privileged to meet VCE's 3 Haitian 
conservation partners, who spent most of July, 2008 with us here in 
Vermont and have since continued to work with us on Hispaniola.  After 
several anxious days last week, we have confirmed that all 3 survived 
the devastating earthquake, though their and all other Haitians' lives 
have doubtless been forever changed.  My apologies that I didn't relay 
this news sooner to any of you who may have been wondering.

Although humanitarian concerns are far and away the most pressing in 
Haiti now, as they should be, this tragedy is bound to increase pressure 
on the country's scarce and beleagured natural resources.  People are 
reportedly pouring out of Port-au-Prince into surrounding rural areas, 
seeking food, shelter and safety.  One currently protected area, Parc 
National La Visite, lies only  22 km outside the capitol and is already 
hanging by a thread ecologically.  It and the rest of the Massif de la 
Selle support the bulk of the world's breeding population of 
Black-capped Petrel, designated by the IUCN as critically endangered.  A 
number of Hispaniola's 31 endemic birds also occur there, as do 
wintering Bicknell's Thrushes (see a 2005 report 
http://www.vtecostudies.org/PDF/visite05.pdf for more details).  It is 
difficult to imagine how the park's fragile habitats can survive the 
surge of displaced Port-au-Prince residents that are likely arriving now.

Many in the international conservation community are beginning to 
mobilize to assist Haiti in rebuilding its human and natural resource 
capital.  For now, of course, all efforts must and will go towards 
humanitarian relief, but ultimately, when the time is right, there may 
be a great opportunity to give conservation a boost.  Every tragedy has 
a silver lining, and while it is difficult to look far ahead at this 
point, we can all hope that the international spotlight now on Haiti 
leads to a united front for conservation there.  I expect to be able to 
relay more news on this during the weeks and months ahead.

For now, we're all incredibly relieved that our Haitian friends and 
colleagues are safe.  Some of you might be interested in a recap of 
their July 2008 visit at 
http://www.vtecostudies.org/hispbird/training.html#Summer2008.

Chris

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Chris Rimmer
Vermont Center for Ecostudies
P.O. Box 420
Norwich, VT 05055
802-649-1431 ext. 1
www.vtecostudies.org