Abaco National Park
The Abaco National Park was a significant addition to the National Park system of The Bahamas. When it was established in 1994 it was the first major park to be created in over 20 years!
Although the Bahama Parrot had been protected by law for some years the inadequate enforcement of laws and destruction of their habitat resulted in dwindling numbers of animals. The Abaco National Park renders the habitat of the Abaco parrot protected and conserves it in perpetuity. This 20,500 acre park is located on the southeastern portion of Abaco Island between Hole in the Wall and Crossing Rocks and includes 5,000 acres of pine forest.
- Established: 1994
- Size: 22,500 Acres
The Bahamas National Trust identified the need for a National Park in Abaco to protect the northern habitat and breeding area of the endangered Bahama Parrot in an official proposal to the Bahamas Government, “The Development of a National Park System for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas”. In 1986, Dr. Rosemarie Gnam, then a doctoral candidate, conducted a census of the Bahama Parrot in Abaco. Her results indicated in population of 1,500 birds. The Bahamas National Trust realized that the Bahama Parrot had reached a point where human action would determine it ultimate survival.
The Bahama Parrot Conservation Committee, a multi-agency committee comprised of The Bahamas National Trust, Department of Land & Surveys, The Ministry of Agriculture, Friends of the Abaco Parrot, and Friends of the Environment was formed and signed a memorandum of understanding with RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, a United States of America based organization. The Committee met with the outstanding success: 8,000 Bahama Parrot Posters were distributed throughout the country, 27,750 school children were addressed, Quincy, the committee’s Bahama Parrot mascot became a recognized and loved figure and 6,000 people wore Bahama Parrot T-shirts and pledged support for the conservation effort. Outstanding community support and an unheard of level of support from the local business community all contributed to the success of the campaign.
On May 9, 1994, the Bahamas Government signed a 99 year lease with the Bahamas National Trust declaring some 20,500 acres in South Abaco inclusive of 5,000 acres of forested land where the most endangered population of Bahamas Parrot remain, a National Park. Upon signing the lease, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham commented that there was no way that he could ignore over 800 letters that had been written to the Minister of Agriculture by school children requesting that a park be established in abaco as a home for Quincy the Bahama Parrot.
Importance for Biodiversity
Bahama Parrot: One of the main reasons for the establishment of the Abaco National Park was to protect the northern habitat of this endangered species. Unique among New World Parrots, these birds are subterranean nester, nesting in naturally created limestone cavities on the ground of the pine forest.
Game Birds: The area is known as a breeding ground for the White-crowned Pigeon, the most popular game bird of the Bahamas. Conservation of this area is vital to the species and promotes the stability of its population in the northern Bahamas.
Pine Forest: The Park also protects an extensive tract of Caribbean Pine, a species of great historical value to The Bahamas. No other National Park protects such a large tract of this species and the ecosystem it supports. The Caribbean Pine is one of the most favored trees for silviculture. Seeds generated in Abaco National Park could be used to establish/re-establish pine forest in other parts of the Bahamas as well as other parts of the world.
Coppice: An extensive tract of Mixed Broadleaf Coppice is protected in the Abaco National Park. The habitat/ecosystem is important for many reasons, including its historical value to The Bahamas and the biodiversity it supports.
Importance for Ecotourism
The Abaco National Park also holds great potential for ecotourism. The Park is easily accessible and the supporting tourism infrastructure in Abaco (hotels, etc.) lends itself to the development of nature tourism activities. Abaco has the best birding of any island in The Bahamas. It is possible to see more Bahamian specialties on Abaco then on any other island. A visiting birder with a good guide can see Bahama Parrots, West Indian Woodpeckers, Bahama Swallows, Bahama Yellow throats, Loggerhead Kingbirds, Olive-capped Warblers and Bahama Mockingbird. Bahamians who are willing to learn about birds and the other flora and fauna of the Park, as well as take a tour guide training, have a great economic opportunity awaiting them in Abaco.