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The Morne Diablotin National Park, which is situated in the northwest of Dominica, is the island’s third national park to be established and was formally declared on January 21, 2000 by the President of the Commonwealth of Dominica. This followed twenty years of planning and negotiations, when calls for the Government to establish a “nature preserve” in the Morne Diablotin area, were articulated in the Dominican Forest and Parks system plan in 1979. Morne Diablotin, named after the Dominican creole word for the Black-capped Petrel, is the tallest peak in Dominica and stands at 4, 747 ft. above sea level.
The Park covers an area of 8,242 acres (3,335.5 hectares) and was created from 6,637 acres of lands that were formerly part of the Northern Forest Reserve, the 204-acre Syndicate Parrot Preserve that was acquired in 1989, and two former inholdings which were situated in the Forest Reserve and totalling approximately 1,300 acres. The Rare Species Conservatory Foundation (based in Florida, USA) working in partnership with the Government of Dominica was able to raise some US$75,000 towards the cost of the purchase of the 1,300 acres of old growth tropical rain forest.
The Morne Diablotin National Park is home to two species of Dominican parrots which are found nowhere else in the world. These are the Sisserou or Imperial parrot (Amazona imperialis) – Dominica’s National Bird – and the Jaco Red-necked Parrot (Amazona arausiaca). Both species are endemic only to Dominica, and because of their endangered or threatened status, are currently listed in the Red Data Book for endangered species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In fact the protection of the two species of parrot was one of the main reasons for the establishment of the park.
In 1993, utilizing funds provided by RARE Centre for Tropical Conservation and Birdlife International, the Syndicate Nature Trail was constructed through the Syndicate Parrot Preserve in the western section of the Park. This trail provides visitors the opportunity of experiencing a genuine tropical rain forest experience. Visitors also have the chance of viewing the island’s Sisserou and Jaco parrots, as well as the Plumbeous Warbler and Blue-headed Hummingbird that are only found in Dominica, Guadeloupe and Martinique.
The Syndicate Nature Trail and surrounding area in the Park has become the prime area for bird-watching on Dominica, so visitors go up to the area in the early mornings or mid- to late afternoons to catch a glimpse of the parrots, hummingbirds, warblers, house-wrens and other species, or a lesser Antillean Iguana soaking in its last bit of sunshine as it perches at the top of a buttressed 100ft. tree. Visitors to the area sometimes come on their own, with local tour guides from the neighbouring villages, or as part of organized tours.This Park was formally established on January 21, 2000 under Dominica’s National Parks Act of 1975. It is managed by the Forestry and Wildlife Division which is part of the government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The Morne Diablotin National Park has several important attributes. Firstly, it is considered to possess the highest diversity of plant and animal species in an area of Dominica with the finest and least disturbed stands of tropical rain forest on the island and the insular Caribbean. The Park also contains elfin woodlands, montane forest and secondary rain forest. It protects the habitat of over fifty (50) species of birds, of which at least thirty species are breeding on the island. The most famous of these are the Sisserou or Imperial parrot (Amazona imperialis) – Dominica’s National Bird – and the Jaco Red-necked Parrot (Amazona arausiaca). Both species are endemic only to Dominica, and because of their endangered or threatened status, are currently listed in the Red Data Book for endangered species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In fact the protection of the two species of parrots was one of the main reasons for establishing the Park.
The Park also contains 17 species of mammals (mostly bats), nine species of reptiles including iguanas, two species of tree frogs, several species of crustaceans, fresh water fish and Insects. Some of these species (e.g. the Dominican Tree Lizard and some of the bats and birds) are endemic to Dominica or the Lesser Antilles. A few of the island’s plant species are endemic to the island, and occur only near the summit of Morne Diablotin.
Large buttressed trees, prop-rooted trees with diameters of 6ft and above and trees with stems covered with climbers, wild anthuriums, orchids, ferns, bromeliads, mosses and other epiphytes dominate the vegetation of the park.
One of the other important attributes of the Morne Diablotin National Park is the fact that it protects the headwaters of several of the rivers that flow through the northern half of the island, and provide portable water for the communities in the north, north-east and north-west of the island. One of the major catchments which is partly within the Park, provides water for the major town of Portsmouth in the north and the Cabrits Cruise Ship Berth. Ships that berth at the facility often purchase water on their onward or returned journeys.
With its rich biodiversity, the Park offers excellent opportunities for conducting research, and over the past years, research has been ongoing in the park- and adjoining lands- into the breeding biology and ecology of the island’s two species of Amazon parrots. Educational and environmental awareness field trips are conducted by local schools, as well as foreign university groups - studying the vegetation types in the Park, its flora and fauna etc.
The Park is also regularly used for recreation and ecotourism. Persons wanting to climb Morne Diablotin which is the tallest peak in the Eastern Caribbean and the tallest peak on Dominica, hike from the Syndicate area to the summit of the Park via the Morne Diablotin Trail, and on a clear day the view of the lands below and the other mountains in the distance is simply breath-taking. In addition to Morne Diablotin, the Park also contains several outstanding physical features such as Morne Turner, which is part of Morne Les Resources, several unnamed peaks, many clear refreshing mountain streams and the Picard River Gorge.The Park is protected under Dominica’s National Parks Act of 1975 and is managed by the Forestry and Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
As mentioned earlier the Morne Diablotin National Park is one of three such parks on island. The more widely known World Heritage Trois Piton National Park encompasses tropical forest blends with volcanic features of high scenic appeal and scientific interest, precipitous slopes and deeply-incised valleys, fifty fumaroles and hot springs, freshwater lakes, a "boiling lake" and five volcanoes, together with the richest biodiversity in the Lesser Antilles. The two reserves share a common forest type and are both important water catchment areas which have remained unspoilt to this day. The preservation of the reserves has maintained them as choice tourist sites for cruise and other visitors to the island. Both reserves present a rare combination of natural features of World Heritage value.