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Inagua National Park is located on Great Inagua Island and encompasses 32,600 ha. The park features a permanent lake, Lake Rosa with scattered islands, a saline lagoon, extensive saltmarshes, dense mangroves, and permanent, brackish marsh. It is an important area for breeding, passage and wintering for numerous species of waterbirds and particularly important for its breeding colony of over 40,000 Caribbean flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber ruber). The site supports several species of endangered, rare and endemic reptiles and birds. It is the only Wetland of International Importance in The Bahamas: Ramsar site no. 892.
The Inagua National Park is recognized as a Wetland of International Importance and listed in the RAMSAR Directory of Wetlands. Wetlands are one of the most threatened ecosystems in the West Indies. The wetland ecosystem protected by the Inagua national park is important as a habitat that supports characteristic flora and fauna and as a resource of economic, cultural, scientific and recreational value.
Lake Rosa is a permanent , shallow brackish lake , up to 1.5 m deep with small islands scattered through out and a fringe of brackish marshes; there are dense mangrove swamps on the northern and eastern borders, and the lake is surrounded by a broad belt of open scrub with seasonal marshes.
Other wetlands in the National Park include a) Union Creek, a saline lagoon with opening to the sea, extensive salt water marshes and scattered mangroves; b) a permanent brackish marsh with many scattered pools and some mangroves, south of Palacca Point and c) Close in Point Lakes, a permanent brackish marsh with dense mangrove swamps northwest of South East Points.
Principal Vegetation protected in the Inagua National Park
Avicennia germinans, Conacarpus erectus with some broad-leaf coppice on higher ground.
Waterfowl protected and benefiting in the Inagua National Park
The park is an important area for breeding, passage and wintering waterfowl of a wide variety of species and particularly important for its large breeding colony of the Caribbean Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber ruber. The Inagua Population was estimated at about 21,000 birds (6,000 breeding pairs) in the early 1970’s but under close protection the population has risen and remains stable at an estimated 40,000 – 50,000 birds to date. Other breeding species include Pelicanus occidentalis ( 200 pairs) , Phalacrocorax olivaceus, Nyctanassa violacea, Butoridees virescens, Egretta caerulea E. tricolor, E. rufescens ( 300 pairs) , E. alba, Ajaia ajaja ( 100 pairs) Dendrocygna arborea ( 100 pairs) Anas bahamensis, Charadrius vociferous, C. alexandrines, Himantopus himantopus, Gelochelidon nilotica and Sternula antillarum ( several colonies including one of 300 pairs) . Eudocimus albus and Plegadis falcinellus occur in passage and Ardea Herodias is common in the winter.
Other Fauna: the endangered Inagua Inagua Island Turtle Chrysemys malonei, endemic to Great Inagua, is restricted to a few fresh or brackish pools in the park. The threated Bahama Parrot Amazona leucephela bahamensis is also found in coppice areas in the park.
Union Creek Reserve is an enclosed tidal creek and sea turtle research station that lies in the northwest portion of the Inagua National Park. It is natural habitat for Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles. Mangroves surround the creek and the bottom is a lush seagrass meadows. Drs. Karen Bjorndal and Alan Bolten have been conducting long term studies on sea turtle growth and nutrition at Union Creek since 1974.
Criterion (vi): The vast expanse of central Inagua known as Lake Rosa is but a few feet above sea level. The ponds and Salinas found here are several times more saline than salt water and in spite of their austerity are one of he most biologically productive communities on earth. The Salinas team with Brine shrimp, and aquatic life. These remote places were perfect for flamingos which evolved dense filtering lamelle in their blunt bills to siphon the aquatic organisms that make up the rich broth of Lake Rosa. This stark and lonely landscape comes alive during flamingo courtship that some have descriped as a “blazing prarie fire” where the chorus of thousands of gabbling birds can be heard for miles. A sight that can be seen but in a few places in the world today.
Criterion (x): The Inagua National Park is important for in situ biodiversity of a large number of threatened or near threatened wetland species. Species of Note are the West Indian Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber ruber, West Indian Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna arborea, Reddish Egret Egretta rufescens, Roseate Spoonbill Ajaia ajaja, White Cheeked Pintail Anas Bahamensis Roseate Tern Sterna dougalli, and Least Tern Sternula antillarum.
Union Creek Reserve protectes habitat for the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle Eretmachelys imbricate and the endangered Green Turtle Chelonia mydas. Other fauna: Inagua Freshwater Turtle Chrysemys malonei, endemic.
The Inagua National Park is recognized as Wetland of International Importance Ramsar Site 892. One of 41 Important Bird Areas in The Bahamas. Identified by using criteria developed by Birdlife International to spotlight in a scientifically robust way areas important for biodiversity.
IUCN Category II – National Park
Category II protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities.
The Inagua National Park can be compared to Keoladeo National Park in India. Both areas are Wetlands of International Importance and are significant for protecting habitat for globally threatened bird species.
The Inagua National Park (Lake Rosa) water levels are assisted by the system of dykes and pumping stations which bring salt water to the solar evaporators used by Morton Salt (Bahamas) Ltd to produce salt by solar evaporation.
Both parks support large numbers of nesting wetland birds as well as providing wintering habitat of migratory waterfowl.