St. Kitts sea turtles to benefit from environment fund

Michael Mansoor (right), Chairman, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank and Duane Silverstein, Executive Director, Seacology signing MOU while Debra P. King, Director Corporate Communications, CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank looks on.

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JANUARY 8TH 2012 (CUOPM) – St. Kitts is among three Caribbean islands that will get a new year’s gift from CIBC FirstCaribbean in the form of support for endangered environmental projects in their different island communities.

Through a partnership with Seacology, the only Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) in the world whose sole focus is on preserving island ecosystems, CIBC FirstCaribbean will assist the islands of St. Kitts, Grenada and San Salvador in the Bahamas in preserving their ecosystems and wildlife by protecting critical mangrove forests, nesting beaches of sea turtles and endangered iguanas in these three countries respectively.

The first cheque was handed over by the Executive Chairman of CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank and Chairman of the Bank’s charitable foundation, Mr. Michael Mansoor to the Executive Director of Seacology, Mr. Duane Silverstein at a short ceremony at the Bank, when the California-based Seacology Director visited Barbados.

The total grant of US$63,000 over a three-year period will be disbursed in three tranches and will fully fund the environmental programmes and extend some much needed protection to the Caribbean’s wildlife and people as the projects will be self sustaining and will involve members of the various island communities.

“CIBC FirstCaribbean Bank is concerned about our customers as well as the sustainability of the island environment in which we live. These projects have the potential of not only sustaining the environment but also the livelihoods of many Caribbean people and we are happy to be a part of it” stated Mr. Mansoor.

In explaining the choice of projects, Mr. Silverstein pointed out that his 20-year old organisation worked with local field representatives in the communities and those reps are the ones who chose the projects along with local community leaders.

He further elaborated that ‘they are the eyes and ears of Seacology’ and are the ones who know the local culture, language, environment and needs. In this case, the reps were the ones who worked with the community leaders in developing the project proposals and will ensure the now approved projects are properly executed.

The project in St. Kitts will work with the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network to protect the Sea turtles and their habitats including the nesting beaches, focusing on the Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green turtles.

The project in San Salvador Bahamas will fund an iguana head starting facility to protect the endemic San Salvador iguana of which only 500 remain in the wild.

In Grenada, the mangrove area between Woburn and Calivigny Bays contains the largest intact mangrove ecosystem in the country. It is a nesting, roosting and feeding area for many species and was damaged during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The project will seek to assist the groups who were already working to restore the mangroves, clean up manmade litter and promote awareness of the importance of the mangrove to both local and visiting audiences.

Mr. Silverstein explained “Seacology seeks projects that respond to the clear and pressing needs of island communities while protecting vulnerable ecosystems containing healthy habitat, often for rare, endemic or endangered species of plants and animals.”

He went on to note that the NGO has 222 projects in 140 islands around the world including in the South Pacific and South East Asia but these are the first projects which they will be undertaking in the Caribbean. To date, the organisation has worked on preserving coral reefs, rainforest and other imperiled habitats as well as saving turtles and their nesting sites, crocodiles and other endangered animal species.

“We are very thankful to CIBC FirstCaribbean Bank for this generous donation and I look forward to working with the Bank closely on these projects.” Mr. Silverstein added.

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