As if the ground-dwelling Grenada dove hasn’t endured enough—habitat loss, invasive predators, hurricanes—its critically endangered population (estimated at just 180 birds in 2004, before Hurricane Ivan) may be wiped out by a sprawling Four Seasons luxury resort in the bird’s most important habitat. Land clearing has already begun for the project, which will include a hotel, upscale villas, a marina, a conference center, and a golf course in the small Caribbean nation.
“If they want to build this resort on the scale they’re talking about, they are simply not going to be able to keep the Grenada dove alive,” says David E. Blockstein, chairman of the board of the Ornithological Council, a consortium of bird experts in the Americas and the first scientist to study the dove in detail. “The area is too small to have both a mega-resort and an endangered bird.”
Ironically, during the past decade more than $1 million was spent to preserve the dove’s dry-forest habitat. An “I Love My Dove” campaign raised public awareness for Grenada’s national bird, and the government even created 154-acre Mount Hartman National Park—a sanctuary that now supports the most viable population of doves as well as an endangered, endemic subspecies of hook-billed kite that feeds solely on tree snails.
But Grenada, the world’s second-largest producer of nutmeg, has been hurting economically since 2004, when Hurricane Ivan severely damaged most of the island’s spice plantations, making tourism crucial for economic recovery. It appears that the massive, nine-figure resort project will be built on part of 544 acres of prime land that includes Mount Hartman National Park.
A report by a local environmental consultant hired by the developers recommends migratory corridors and vegetated zones to connect the fragmented hillside dove habitats, since the birds aren’t known to walk or fly over open spaces (read: golf fairways). The 15-page study contends the strategy “provides benefits for both conservation and socio-economic development.”
“It’s a very big project in a small area where you’re dealing with a bird that is at very low numbers and has very tight habitat requirements,” Blockstein counters. “If they build it, the bird will die.”
Groups including BirdLife International and the American Bird Conservancy have criticized the project and called on Four Seasons to pull out or scale back. An online action campaign (www.grenadadovecampaign.com) is trying to get the company to reconsider its design.
In late February Grenada’s prime minister issued a press release promising not to abolish the sanctuary. He also intimated that the government was considering legal action against the bird’s Internet advocates. The announcement bore the official state seal, featuring a Grenada dove.—Christopher R. Cox