Nature Conservation Court Case number 9. Aruba Birdlife Conservation

 

The verdict of May 30 th , 2018, in the case that Aruba Birdlife Conservation has named “Mission Rescue Warbler Street” was the ninth ( yes: 9 ) court case that AB has conducted in an ongoing effort to stop the destruction of Aruba’s Bubali Wetlands. The first verdict dates back to June 7 th , 2016. Some chronological perspective demonstrates how this Aruban nature conservation foundation reached to this point.

In 2011, Aruba Birdlife Conservation launched the first campaign to get the Shoco, Aruba’s Burrowing Owl, protected. The Shoco is an endemic subspecies and Aruba is the only country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands that has a Burrowing Owl. Its numbers have been diminishing and it is estimated that there are only some 200 pairs remaining in Aruba. This subspecies is classified by ABC as critically endangered with a realistic chance of going extinct. In 2012 the Shoco was proclaimed a National Symbol of Aruba.

In 2012, ABC proposed to Parliament of Aruba to protect sixteen (16) nature areas and get them placed under Parke Nacional Arikok. In February 2013, this proposal was made into a motion and all 21 members of Aruba’s Parliament voted, in a unanimous fashion, in favor of protecting these 16 today for technical reasons referred to as “the 19 areas”. In 2014, ABC proposed to the Government to declare the Prikichi, Aruba’s Brown Throated Parakeet, the second endemic subspecies of birds that Aruba has, the National Bird of Aruba.

In 2017, the Government of Aruba declared the Prikichi Aruba’s National Bird. The number of Prikichis in Aruba has declined dramatically during the past 8 years. This subspecies is also classified by ABC as critically endangered and there is also a realistic chance that next to the Shoco, that the Prikichi will also go extinct. In November 2016 Aruba Birdlife Conservation published its book “Bird Wildlife of Aruba”. Evidence was needed to prove to the Government that bird wildlife in Aruba was important and the book could help
prove the presence and significance of Aruba’s bird wildlife.

The book consists of 432 pages and contains among others the bird check list of Aruba with 254 species of birds. Next to the birds’ scientific names, their names are presented in English, Papiamento, Dutch and Spanish. This is more relevant than may seem at first. Many school teachers who wanted to promote nature awareness in their class rooms got
stuck when wanting to conduct research. The teachers knew of many names of birds in the local Papiamento language but could not find much in Papiamento on internet. The checklist thus became a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for teachers and students, enabling them to move forward with their nature conservation efforts.

The check list has since been regularly updated and on March 18, 2018 the most
recent version was published containing 266 species of birds. Another 12 new species of birds were added in just a short period as two years. In September 2016 Aruba Birdlife Conservation started a national campaign, a petition, to collect signatures to stop the ongoing and increasing destruction of important nature areas in Aruba, including
the Bubali Wetlands, but also the growing threat of building a hotel in the pristine Pos Chiquito mangroves at Isla di Oro. A project that all local nature NGO’s are strongly against. More than 11.000 signatures were collected and in November 2016 the petition was presented to the Prime Minister, the President of Parliament of Aruba and our Governor. In perspective this number of signatures is extremely high.

Translating it to the population of the United States, this would entail more than 30
million signatures. In March 2017 Princes Beatrix, the mother of the King of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, travelled to Aruba to ceremoniously declare Spanish Lagoon part of Parke Nacional Arikok and to support Aruba Birdlife Conservation with its nature conservation efforts. She visited the Bubali Wetlands with volunteers of ABC to see for herself what the extent of the destruction was that had taken place and to encourage the Government of Aruba to get the remaining of the sixteen areas protected. To date, Spanish Lagoon is the only area of the original 16 that has been declared part of Parke Nacional Aruba.

Although the Government has promised Her Royal Highness to place these areas under
supervision of Aruba’s National Park and has repeatedly stated that the areas will all be protected, nothing has happened. While the aforementioned efforts were ongoing, it became apparent to Aruba Birdlife Conservation that the previous minister of infrastructure of Aruba, rather than protecting the areas, was giving out parcels of land to developers for the construction of yet more hotels and condominiums at Aruba’s Wetland Areas. Besides this being in contradiction to the decision in Parliament, ABC discovered also that this was not in accordance with Aruba’s Spatial Planning (R.O.P.), in which it was apparent that these areas
were actually nature areas.

It was this dismaying discovery that lead to Aruba Birdlife Conservation’s first court case in 2016. Along the way subsequent discoveries were made of yet more parcels of nature of the Bubali Wetlands that had been promised to the real estate giants. This lead to a barrage of court cases to prevent further destruction of the Bubali Wetlands. And that is how Aruba Birdlife Conservation ended up with having filed 9 court cases. A higher court of appeal verdict is pending this month and on June 15 th of 2018, court case number ten (10) is already scheduled. Once again that one will be about protecting the Bubali Wetlands. Court case number 10 concerns the property between The Mill and the House of Cheng, which according to the R.O.P. is a protected nature area.

Aruba Birdlife Conservation has always taken sides for Aruba’s nature in these court cases, be it against the Government or developers, or both. To date ABC has won seven ( 7 ) of the nine ( 9 ). One can only imagine how many costs are involved to carry out this amount of court cases, and there are yet more court case will follow in the pipeline, including one to rescue the Mangrove area in Pos Chiquito from being destroyed by building yet another hotel in this very sensitive nature area. It is one of the sixteen areas that ABC has been trying to get protected for the past six years. Locals as well as our Tourists and Time Share Holders can help Aruba Birdlife Conservation keep up its work to prevent further destruction of the 16 very important nature areas in Aruba by contributing with a donation. Your help will contribute to keeping the quality experience in Aruba at a respectable level and help prevent more nature areas from going lost to excessive and useless hotel and condominium
development on the island.

You can make your donation directly to: Foundation Aruba Birdlife Conservation, Aruba Bank NV, Account number 2402860190 (BIC Code: ARUBAWAX). Thank you.
Superfood, the grand supermarket just across from Hotel La cabana, has granted Aruba Birdlife Conservation this month’s fund collection opportunity. You can also swing by Superfood and make your donation to ABC with one of the cashiers. Aruba Birdlife Conservation takes the opportunity to thank all volunteers and supporters, locals as well
as our tourists for their ongoing support. You can help Aruba Birdlife Conservation make a difference. ABC can be followed on Facebook: Aruba Birdlife Conservation.

By Greg Peterson
Chairman of Foundation Aruba Birdlife Conservation

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