When Ilya Tolstoy, grandson of famed Russian author Leo Tolstoy, assembled a concerned group of forward-thinking Bahamian and North American conservationists in 1958, he did not set out to create The Bahamas National Trust. He was just a dedicated naturalist who realized that the Exuma chain was under threat from developers and he was determined to save it.
In the early 1950’s, the National Audubon Society discovered that hunting and human intrusion were decimating the population of the West Indian Flamingo. In a race to save key bird nesting sites , including a small fragile population on the island of Inagua, Audubon enlisted the help of skilled Bahamian flamingo hunters Sammy and Jimmy Nixon, turning two of the flock’s greatest threats into its chief protectors.
The reports that came back from these tandem conservation efforts were groundbreaking. The Exuma findings and the urgent plight of the flamingo led the government to establish the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park in 1958 – the first park like it in the world – and to create the The Bahamas National Trust one year later.
In 1965, the government designated the Inagua National Park. Today, the park serves as home to a thriving flock of more than 60,000 West Indian Flamingos. It is an integral part of the history of the BNT and a testament to one of the greatest conservation success stories of the 20th century.