We are proud of our commitment to preserve more than 700 acres as ‘forever wild’ rainforest reserve. On that land, our conservation efforts focus specifically on habitat restoration and climate change mitigation, community-based bird monitoring, and private reserve policy.
To expand conservation efforts, Reserva Zorzal partnered with Loma Quita Espuela Foundation and Consorcio Ambiental Dominicano on reforestation and habitat restoration efforts in between three Scientific Reserves – Guaconejo, Quita Espuela, and Salcedoa. The project is being third party verified and is listed under the international standard called Plan Vivo. To date, the project includes eight landowners who have planted 31,120 native tree species for Bicknell’s thrush habitat and biodiversity restoration. The Plan Vivo project is a long-term program that directly addresses the 50 year goal of the Conservation Action Plan for Bicknell’s thrush to increase the species population by 25%.
The unique and novel aspect of the Plan Vivo certificates is that it links farmers in the Cordillera Septentrional to chocolate companies in the procurement chain who are willing to invest in restoration activities. The chocolate makers who buy Zorzal cacao are willing to pay an additional value for each pound of cacao to invest in Plan Vivo reforestation efforts.
As the old adage goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Similar to our cacao production, our conservation efforts are based on sound science and economics with a dash of inspirational vision and good luck. We established our first baseline monitoring program in 2014 and encountered Bicknell’s Thrush in 19 of 107 bird count points on Reserva Zorzal, primarily in the 800 acre rainforest reserve area. We completed the second monitoring program in 2016.
We emphasize a community-based monitoring program. Local community members and park rangers are trained by ornithologists to conduct the annual monitoring activities. The community approach provides environmental education opportunities and additional income to local stakeholders. We have trained 32 community members on forest and bird monitoring protocols.
Private Reserve policy
The Private Reserve regulation was signed in 2012 by the Dominican Republic’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to encourage private landowners to participate in conservation. It is similar to the Land Trust or conservation easement concept in the United States, but has never been tested in the Dominican Republic. Reserva Zorzal is the first Private Reserve to be established under the regulation and is a critical case study, providing important lessons learned and policy reform suggestions. The Dominican non-profits Consorcio Ambiental Dominicano and Loma Quita Espuela are responsible for developing the management plan and working with the Dominican government to create the Private Reserve and ensure the model is replicated with other landowners.