Did you know that Haiti is one of the most biodiverse countries in the West Indies? There are nearly 6,000 plant species, some of which can only be found in Haiti. There are also nine life zones, including deserts, cloud forests, mountain ranges, rivers, and streams.
Though environmental degradation threatens this biodiverse country, you can still spot native flora and fauna. Here are ten species to look out for while diving along the coast or hiking through the mountains.
The Hispaniolan Solenodon
This cute little guy is a venomous, nocturnal, burrowing mammal that looks a bit like a shrew. These animals are only found on the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba. First recorded in 1833, the Hispaniolan Solenodon lives in undisturbed forests in southern Haiti. A squeaky and somewhat erratic animal that you’ll be lucky to spot in the daylight, the Hispaniolan Solenodon is an endangered species and the last time it was spotted in the wild with evidence was in 2008.
The Hispaniolan Hutia
A hutia is a large rodent that looks similar to a guinea pig or a capybara. Also endangered, these animals are mostly herbivorous and live in trees and rock crevices. They live on several different Caribbean islands (including on Cuba) where they’re often cooked and eaten with nuts and honey. While considered endangered in Haiti, the Hispaniolan Hutia once overpopulated the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base due to lots of food and few predators.
West Indian Manatee
You’ll find lots of marine life in Haiti, including the West Indian manatee. The largest type of manatee, this one is considered vulnerable but not quite extinct. The West Indian manatee lives around the Caribbean, as well as around Florida, Central America, and some South American countries.
Greater Bulldog Bat
This flying bat lives throughout the Caribbean and South America, and is one of very few bat species that have adapted to eating fish. It uses echolocation to detect water ripples and then uses a pouch between its leg to scoop up its dinner. In addition to fish, the Greater Bulldog Bat also eats crabs and shrimp.
A near-threatened bird species found in Haiti’s 10 Important Bird Areas (as identified by BirdLife International), the Grey-crowned Palm-tanager is pretty much found only in Haiti, with just a small population in the Dominican Republic. It lives in forests that have been mostly degraded.
Candy Cane Snail
This pretty snail only lives in Haiti – and on one type of tree. It’s an air-breathing land snail (as opposed to a water snail) and boasts a striped, multi-colored shell. Unfortunately, collecting these shells for sale could lead to the species’ extinction. Selling these shells is considered unlawful.
The American crocodile should not be confused with the American alligator, which you might be familiar with due to its Florida habitat. The American crocodile can still be found in southernmost Florida, but is mostly found throughout Latin America. One of the largest populations of the American crocodile can be found on Hispaniola.
Hispaniolan Ventriloquial Frog
This frog is endemic to Massif de la Hotte, Haiti. Living in cloud forests only, these frogs are only found in one spot in the world – Haiti’s Pic Macaya National Park. Unfortunately, there’s currently no conservation efforts surrounding the Hispaniolan ventriloquial frog and deforestation threatens its life.
Hispaniola Brown Racer
Haiti is one of very few places in the world to boast of no venomous snakes that are dangerous to humans. Because of this (or perhaps in spite of this), snake charming is big business in Haiti. You can find snake charmers performing in the cities during most of the year, but particularly during Carnival season before Lent.
The Hispaniolan Trogon is native to Haiti and is the island’s national bird. Brightly colored and with long tails, they are the focus of many conservation efforts since they also suffer from forest degradation.
For more insight into Haitian life and to find out how you can join our efforts to free Haitian children from the restavek system of slavery, check out the Restavek Freedom blog!