Jul 172017
 

On July 2nd, Echo held an open house at Kunuku Dos Pos in Rincon.  For those who aren’t familiar with this organization, Echo is a non-profit group with a mission to protect the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot (Amazona Barbadensis) on Bonaire and in the Caribbean.  We attended the open house to learn more about this wonderful organization and its mission here on the island.

One of Echo’s main projects is reforestation of the habitat of the Yellow-shouldered Amazon Parrot in Bonaire. By growing and planting indigenous trees at sites all around the island, Echo is helping to restore the unique habitats favored by this amazing bird.  In addition to the extensive reforestation effort, Echo also conducts research (such as nest monitoring and roost counts) and rehabilitates injured and illegally captured parrots.

This beautiful parrot lives at the Echo kunuku in a spacious enclosure. It was an illegal pet and can not be released into the wild. Echo cares for it, and others like it.

Echo also cares for a pair of Scarlet McCaws that were illegal pets and can not fend for themselves in the wild.

At Echo’s Kunuku Dos Pos, they also have an indigenous tree nursery, at which members of the public can purchase indigenous trees (which are favored by the Amazon Parrots) to plant on their own property.

The entrance to Echo’s kunuku in Rincon

Echo conducts public tours each Wednesday at 4:30.  Please visit if you are interested in learning more about its important work.

Email – Info@echobonaire.org

Call –  701 1188

A wild Yellow-shouldered Parrot in Rincon, Bonaire

May 302017
 

On April 23, 2017, an oil spill occurred at Trinidad’s Petrotin oil refinery in the Gulf of Paria. As a result of a ruptured storage tank, approximately 20,000 gallons (or 300 barrels) of crude oil cascaded into Trinidad’s Guaracara River (according to Trinidad and Tobago’s Guardian Online).

During the past month, the wayward blobs of oil have traveled in a westerly trajectory in the southern Caribbean sea.  Thus far, Venezuela (and its Los Roques islands), Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba have all reported the presence of oil on their shores.

When I imagine our weekly walk at Sorobon, I don’t envision stepping on gummy toxic blobs of crude oil, but this is exactly what happened this weekend.  Laughing Gulls, Snowy Egrets, Flamingos and Royal Terns all perched nearby as if nothing was amiss – oblivious to the danger that surrounded them.

Oil Spill Effects seen at Sorobon

The oil, seen here at Sorobon, has morphed into tar

Sorobon is home to endangered sea turtles, endangered mangrove forests, flamingos, queen conch and many other avian and aquatic species. This delicate ecosystem is a showcase of nature’s finest work, and now it is suffering daily assaults as the oil continues to wash in with the tides. The extent of the damage is not yet known and can not yet be assessed.

Thankfully, Bonaire has dedicated contingent of conservation agencies and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to contain the damage.  Yesterday, Steve joined STINAPA and Dutch military forces at a cleanup at Lagoen.

Dutch Military Forces at work, photo by Steve Schnoll

Clean-up efforts underway at Lagoen, photo by Steve Schnoll

Photo by Steve Schnoll

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) has also been working around the clock to help coordinate clean-up efforts.  This morning it held a clean-up at the old shrimp farm near Sorobon.

Photo courtesy of STCB

Photo courtesy of STCB

Your Help is Needed.  STINAPA Bonaire is coordinating clean-up efforts for the coming days. Please send an email to volunteer@stinapa.org (make sure to include your name, phone number and address) if you would like to assist in these efforts on Bonaire’s east coast. Also, please follow the Facebook pages for Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire and STINAPA.

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If you find sea turtles, birds or other marine life affected by the oil, please call the STCB Hotline at (+599) 780 0433 or Stinapa at (+599) 717 8444.

Several friends and frequent Bonaire tourists have asked what they can do to help from afar. We will inquire and share what we find.

Online News Sources

Oil Spill Reaches Bonaire

Trinidad Oil Spill Pollutes Beaches in Venezuela

Oil Spill Reaches the ABC Islands

The Oil Spill is Spreading in the Gulf of Paria – includes an aerial photos of the spill site

 

 

Jan 272016
 

Last Saturday, January 23rd, Dive Friends Bonaire held its first quarterly cleanup dive of 2016 at Karel’s Pier in downtown Kralendijk.  In total, 2714 items of marine debris were collected by a record-high 135 volunteer divers.

Their next cleanup dive will be held on April 9th.  If you’re on Bonaire during that time, come join the fun.

In between his debris collecting duties, Steve was able to capture a few shots from the dive.

Spotted Eagle Ray

Spotted Eagle Ray

A diver with his debris bag

Steve’s cleanup dive buddy with debris bag

Steve was lucky to spot this seahorse during the dive

Steve was lucky to spot this seahorse during the dive

A diver collecting debris

A diver collecting debris

A French Angelfish inspects the activity

A French Angelfish inspects the activity

A curious position for a Sharptail Eel

A curious position for a Sharptail Eel

A Hogfish with divers behind

A Hogfish with divers in the background

And here is a video by Dive Friends Bonaire.

Aug 192015
 

A large part of Bonaire’s tourists arrive on the island with dive gear in tow, ready to jump in and explore the reefs. Some come for the surfing – windsurfing or kitesurfing that is.  And others arrive on a massive ship, take part in an activity or two, and leave by sunset the same day.  One thing they all have in common is an agenda – a mental list of the many things they want to do during their short stay in paradise.

What often strikes me is the frequency by which these land-based tourists inquire about volunteer opportunities on the island.  Some stay for only one or two weeks, yet they selflessly give a precious block of their vacation time to help one of the island’s many causes.

With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of organizations that welcome tourists who seek to donate their time.

 

Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire

The mission of Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire (CRF) is to develop affordable, effective strategies for protecting and restoring the shallow water population of staghorn and elkhorn corals along the coastlines of Bonaire and Klein Bonaire.  In order to accomplish this mission, volunteer scuba divers are always needed.  Prior to volunteering, divers must become a certified Padi Coral Restoration Diver.  The course is designed with tourists in mind, and it’s both educational and fun (I’ve taken the course, and I wholeheartedly recommend it).

Contacts-

Email – info@crfbonaire

Phone – (+599) 717-5080 ext. 528

Facebook

Coral Restoration Foundation nursery at Klein Bonaire

Coral Restoration Foundation nursery at Klein Bonaire

Cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery

Cleaning the algae from a tree in the coral nursery

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

 

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire

Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) has been protecting Bonaire’s endangered sea turtles since 1991. Their mission is to “connect people to sea turtle conservation in ways that inspire caring for nature”.  Among the ways that tourists can help are to participate in fishing line cleanups and beach cleanups.  For more ways to volunteer, visit http://www.bonaireturtles.org/act

Contacts-

www.facebook.com/bonaireturtles

Local Hotline – 780-0433

Phone – (+599) 717-2225

 

Klein Bonaire Reforestation

In 2006, STINAPA initiated a reforestation project on Klein Bonaire, with the goal of restoring the island’s once-dense flora.  Volunteers are always needed to help care for the young plants and trees.

Contacts –

Email – ebeukenboom@hotmail.com

Facebook private message to Elsmarie Beukenboom

A young plant receives water on Klein Bonaire

A young plant receives water on Klein Bonaire

Volunteers hard at work at the Klein Bonaire base camp

Volunteers hard at work at the Klein Bonaire base camp

 

Quarterly Clean-up Dives Hosted by Dive Friends Bonaire

Dive Friends Bonaire hosts a clean-up dive on a quarterly basis.  Scuba divers can volunteer to remove trash and fishing line from a rotation of sites in downtown Kralendijk.  As a thank you to the volunteers, a barbecue is held that evening at the Dive Friends location at Hamlet Oasis.

The next 2015 clean-up dive will be held on October 17th.

Contacts-

Email – info@divefriendsbonaire.com

Facebook – Dive Friends Bonaire

 

Animal Shelter Bonaire

The animal shelter of Bonaire is where the island’s homeless cats and dogs find a loving refuge.  Animal-loving volunteers work tirelessly to see that the animals are well cared-for, vaccinated, spayed or neutered and provided with necessary health care.  The shelter is always looking for volunteers and donations of cash, food and supplies.

Contacts – 

Web form

Facebook – www.facebook.com/animalshelterbonaire

Phone- +0599-717-4989

The Shelter's new Cat Palace

The Shelter’s new Cat Palace

The cats enjoying play time

The cats enjoying their new palace

Have you volunteered during your trip to Bonaire?  Do you know of other Bonaire-based organizations that welcome tourist volunteers?

Apr 272015
 

In my Part I of this series, I touched on the mission of Coral Restoration Foundation Bonaire (CRF) and promised to show you how the restoration work is carried out underwater.

But first, I think it’s important to explain the meaning of coral restoration.  Simply put, coral restoration is the transplantation of nursery-raised coral fragments to needy reef sites where they are secured to the seabed with marine epoxy or tie wraps.

The coral nursery is the epicenter of activity for coral restoration.  “Coral Trees” are constructed using PVC pipes and fiberglass rods.  Then, coral fragments are hung from the tree on monofilament line.  A tree can hold as many as 160 coral fragments (all of the same coral species- staghorn or elkhorn in this case).

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

Divers in the coral nursery on Klein Bonaire

Here a diver prunes the coral.  The new fragment will be affixed to a new spot.

Here a diver prunes the coral. The new fragment will be affixed to a new spot.

Pruning the coral

Pruning the coral

A diver affixing coral fragments to a tree

A diver affixing coral fragments to a tree

Monofilament line for affixing coral to the tree

Monofilament line for affixing coral to the tree

Each coral fragment will be tied and affixed to monofilament line and hung separately on the tree

Each coral fragment will be tied and affixed to monofilament line and hung separately on the tree

A volunteer diver hangs newly pruned coral fragments to a tree

A volunteer diver hangs newly pruned coral fragments to a tree

New volunteer divers learning to hang coral

New volunteer divers learning to hang coral

Staghorn coral fragments affixed to a coral tree

Staghorn coral fragments affixed to a coral tree

Once the corals have been affixed to a tree, regular maintenance is needed for optimal health and growth potential.  The tree “branches” and the monofilament line both require frequent cleaning.

Closeup of monofilament line before cleaning.  Notice the algae build up.

Closeup of monofilament line before cleaning. Notice the algae build up.

Here I am cleaning the tree branches to remove algae build up

Cleaning the monofilament lines to remove algae build up

cleaning coral 2

A diver cleans the tree trunk, removing algae and other build up

A diver cleans a tree trunk, removing algae and other build up

Cleaning a tree branch

Cleaning a tree branch

Diver tending to a tree

Diver tending to a tree

Diver at work cleaning tree

In addition to cleaning the tree, predators and fire coral must be removed as part of its routine care.

A diver removes fire coral that has grown on a tree branch

A diver removes fire coral that has grown on a tree branch

Once the nursery-raised corals have grown to the appropriate size, they are carefully transported to a specially selected site for attachment to the sea floor.  They are then tagged and monitored routinely.

In Bonaire, both tourists and residents alike are encouraged to volunteer with CRF.  In order to volunteer, you must be a certified open water diver, and you must complete the PADI Coral Restoration Diver specialty course.  The course is offered weekly at Buddy Dive Resort, and it is designed so that tourists can have both a fun and educational volunteer vacation.  For more information, please visit Buddy Dive’s website or send an email to info@crfbonaire.org.

Steve and I are very excited to be involved with this organization, and we think it will have a positive and noticeable impact on the health of the coral reefs which surround Bonaire.  We would like to thank Francesca Virdis, the project leader for CRF Bonaire, for helping us become “coral lovers” and for her dedication to Bonaire’s reefs.

 

Important notes

-You may notice that some divers participating in coral restoration activities are wearing gloves.  This is due to the potential for coral cuts or fire coral injuries.  Recreational divers are not permitted to wear gloves on Bonaire.

-Divers volunteering with Coral Restoration Foundation are specially trained in handling coral.  In keeping with good diving practices, it is not OK to touch coral or any other marine species on recreational dives.