Liz Bonnin’s Wild Caribbean episode 1 – The Greater Antilles

Liz Bonnin's Wild Caribbean episode 1 - The Greater Antilles

Liz Bonnin’s Wild Caribbean episode 1 – The Greater Antilles – The Greater Antilles, a geological marvel, boasts a series of islands replete with concealed natural jewels. These lands are a patchwork of ecological wonders ranging from mirror-like salt lakes and sweeping deserts to lush forested summits. Amidst this rich mosaic, a new symbiotic bond is being formed between humans and the native fauna that roam these untamed expanses.



Venturing into this paradise, Liz Bonnin embarks on a remarkable journey in the Dominican Republic. Her mission is a daring ascent up a towering 60-foot palm tree, a feat undertaken with a clear goal in mind: the safe retrieval of a Ridgeway’s hawk chick. This act is not merely for the thrill but is a crucial part of conservation efforts to ensure the survival of this majestic bird species.

Liz Bonnin’s Wild Caribbean episode 1 – The Greater Antilles

But the expedition does not end there. Bonnin delves into the nocturnal world of the elusive solenodon, a creature whose lineage stretches back to the time of the dinosaurs. With a peculiar snout and rare venomous bite, the solenodon is a subject of much intrigue and a symbol of the island’s unique natural history.

Liz Bonnin’s Wild Caribbean episode 1 – The Greater Antilles

Further still, she collaborates with local scientists in the most arid and lowest point of the Caribbean. It’s a landscape that defies the lush greenery one might associate with island life, yet it is surprisingly rich in biodiversity. In this extreme environment, they unearth secrets of survival and adaptation that could help inform global environmental strategies.

The journey also captures a deeply emotional triumph for conservation as Bonnin joins a dedicated team on a mission of mercy: the release of flamingos who have known nothing but captivity for over two decades. This momentous event marks a celebration of freedom and a restoration of natural order, as the flamingos stretch their wings, once clipped by captivity, over their ancestral wetlands.

This narrative is not just one of exploration but also of hope and engagement, as it portrays the deepening understanding and appreciation of our role in the natural world. As we witness Liz Bonnin’s endeavors, we are reminded of the delicate dance between humanity and nature and the steps we are taking towards a more harmonious future.

Liz Bonnin’s Wild Caribbean episode 1 – Uncovering the Hidden Wonders of the Caribbean’s Wild Side


The peculiar geology of the Greater Antilles has created a chain of islands brimming with hidden natural treasures—from shimmering salt lakes to deserts and forested peaks. This rugged terrain is home to an array of intriguing wildlife uniquely adapted to survive and thrive in these extreme environments. The people of the Dominican Republic are forging a renewed relationship with the fascinating creatures that inhabit their wild island, learning how to live in harmony while safeguarding fragile ecosystems. Liz Bonnin heads to this biodiversity hotspot to unveil some of its captivating secrets.

Scaling Palm Trees to Save the Ridgeway’s Hawk

The journey begins in the lush valleys of the Dominican Republic’s Cordillera Septentrional mountain range. Liz takes on the daring challenge of climbing a 60-foot-tall palm tree, no easy feat, to check on the chick of the critically endangered Ridgeway’s hawk. This raptor is found only on the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As an apex predator, the hawk plays a vital role in balancing the island’s ecosystems.

Sadly, with just 250 breeding pairs left in the wild, the Ridgeway’s hawk teeters on the brink of extinction. Habitat loss poses the biggest threat as forests are cleared for agriculture and development. Liz’s intrepid tree-climbing mission is part of a crucial program by the Peregrine Fund to monitor and protect the hawk’s nests. The chick seems healthy—a glimmer of hope for this rare raptor. Through hands-on conservation efforts like these, people are creating a lifeline for the Ridgeway’s hawk.

On the Trail of the Elusive Solenodon

As darkness falls, Liz embarks on a quest to track down one of the most elusive and intriguing mammals on the island—the Hispaniolan solenodon. This unusual nocturnal creature resembles a large shrew, with a long cartilaginous snout perfect for rooting through soil and decaying wood to find insects and other invertebrates. Unlike any other mammal, the solenodon has a pair of grooved teeth that inject venom, using channels that link them to venom glands in the chin.

Finding a solenodon in the wild is a rare privilege—their numbers have dwindled as predation by introduced species like mongooses and habitat loss threaten their survival. Liz joins a team of researchers who have set up pitfall traps that will allow them to temporarily capture solenodons for data collection before returning them safely to the wild. The insights gained help expand knowledge of these living fossils, first evolving over 76 million years ago. Spotting this elusive survivor provides a thrilling window into the evolutionary history of the Caribbean.

Exploring Life in the Driest Place in the Caribbean

The next stop on Liz’s Caribbean adventure leads to an unlikely ecosystem—the Valle de Neiba, a sprawling valley that constitutes the driest place in the insular Caribbean. With barely 18 inches of rain per year, it seems an inhospitable landscape. Yet the valley harbors a remarkably rich diversity of life uniquely adapted to the arid conditions. Liz joins scientists braving the baking heat to uncover the valley’s secrets.

They begin at dawn to monitor populations of the Rhinocryptid land snail living here. These slow-moving mollusks have developed innovative techniques like sealing their shells with mucus to prevent dehydration, allowing them to persist in this parched environment. The research provides insights into how the snails might cope with increasing drought stress from climate change. Further downhill, the team enters a shimmering white plain, the surreal Las Salinas salt lake. Even here, covered by a crust of salt, small invertebrates thrive. While extreme, the valley demonstrates nature’s extraordinary resilience.

The Flamingos’ Flight to Freedom

Liz’s journey through the wilds of Hispaniola concludes with witnessing an emotional milestone—the release of a flock of Caribbean flamingos from over 20 years in captivity. She travels to the southeastern town of Parque del Este to join an effort by the Dominican government and the nonprofit Grupo Jaragua to return these iconic birds to their natural habitat.

The moment is bittersweet, tinged with the flamingos’ decades confined inside concrete pens. But then the birds’ exuberance takes over as their pink wings flutter, sweeping them skyward towards the orange glow of sunrise. The flock circles exultantly before heading off towards the wetlands of Laguna Oviedo. Their jubilant flight marks a newfound freedom, a chance to reconnect with their wild instincts. For Liz and the team, it stirs a sense of awe and accomplishment in helping ensure the flamingos thrive where they belong—soaring over the Caribbean.

Uncovering Secrets Below the Surface

Liz’s quest to uncover the Dominican Republic’s natural wonders continues, venturing into a hidden world below the surface. She dives into vast underwater caverns, plunged into darkness, to shed light on a little-known ecosystem. Later, Liz witnesses the harrowing rescue of a dolphin tangled in ropes and fishing line, highlighting growing conflicts between wildlife and human activity. Her journey reveals how truly little we know about the mysteries concealed beneath the waves.

Diving Into the Shadowy Depths of Underwater Caves

The Dominican Republic harbors a vast network of underwater caves, formed by the erosion of limestone over eons. Only recently explored, they constitute the largest submerged cave system in the Caribbean region. Liz begins her subterranean adventure at Cueva Dudú, plunging into the cave’s crystal waters. As she descends into shadowy chambers with only a flashlight piercing the darkness, an alien world emerges.

Stalactites hang from the ceilings while stalagmites rise from the cave floor. Schools of tetra fish swarm around Liz, undisturbed by human presence. It’s clear that our understanding of this environment is still in its infancy. By studying these cave ecosystems, scientists can piece together their geological history and the specialized organisms making the caves their home. There may even be species still unknown to science concealed in these underground realms.

Rescuing a Dolphin in Distress

Returning to the surface, Liz heads out on a marine patrol with environmental organization MarAlliance. They receive word of a dolphin tangled up in ropes and fishing line, its life endangered. When they locate the injured dolphin, the team springs into action though the thrashing animal makes an apprehensive target. With care, they finally cut away the constricting ropes, freeing the dolphin who instantly dashes off into open waters. Though relieved, the incident highlights growing conflict with local fishermen as dolphin populations increase but catches decline.

Building mutual understanding is key to ensuring peaceful coexistence between people and wildlife. Through education and sustainable fishing initiatives, MarAlliance aims to foster long-term balance. Liz realizes she has only skimmed the surface of the intricate bonds between human and marine life. Maintaining ecological harmony likely holds the key to protecting the treasures that still remain undiscovered below.

Sustainability in Paradise

The Dominican Republic draws millions of tourists each year to its breathtaking landscapes and pristine shores. However, this influx of visitors places enormous pressures on natural habitats already stressed by pollution, development, and climate change. In response, visionary grassroots efforts are emerging across the islands that offer a model for sustainable tourism.

Taking a Stand Against Plastic Pollution

At the Bayahibe Beach Resort, Liz is heartened to see innovative measures to reduce the resort’s environmental impact. They use solar panels, treat and reuse wastewater, and implement eco-friendly waste management. Most inspiring is their effort to curb plastic pollution through refusing single-use plastics and organizing beach cleanups. Small dedicated groups of staff even dive down to collect litter from seabeds.

Seeing the sheer quantity of plastic accumulating in the ocean, Liz gains new perspective on just how dire the issue has become. But the resort’s initiatives provide hope for shifting paradigms in the tourism industry. Their example can encourage travelers to rethink notions of sustainability.

Protecting Coral Reefs Through Ecotourism

Further along the southeastern coastline, Liz stops at the vibrant town of Bayahibe. Here she meets Juan, a local fisherman turned champion of ecotourism and coral conservation. Juan used to depend on catching fish to provide for his family until he realized the long-term impacts of overfishing. Now his boat tours allow visitors to snorkel over stunning coral formations while learning about protecting the reefs.

Through training local guides, Juan is providing his community with sustainable livelihoods. At the same time, his project is raising awareness and funds for replanting coral, tackling fundamental issues like water quality. Juan’s leadership proves that tourism, when done thoughtfully, can actively nurture the natural landscapes people flock to see.

Safeguarding the Future of the Caribbean’s Wild Treasures

Liz Bonnin’s explorations across the Dominican Republic highlight the immense diversity harbored on the islands of the Greater Antilles. But they also reveal the threats these fragile ecosystems and fascinating creatures face in a rapidly changing world. From deforestation to unbridled tourism, finding ways to balance conservation with human activity remains an urgent priority. Across the Caribbean, people are rising to meet this challenge, driven by a shared love of the natural beauty surrounding them.

Liz Bonnin's Wild Caribbean episode 1
Liz Bonnin’s Wild Caribbean episode 1

The Vital Role of Protected Areas

Liz travels to Los Haitises National Park, an area of towering limestone formations blanketed in lush forests. She joins researchers tracking the movements of the endangered Ridgeway’s hawk through tagging and radio transmitters. The data enables optimizing the park’s boundaries to protect critical hawk habitat. But discussions with locals reveal tensions over expanding the park, which would impact their farming.

It exemplifies the complexities of conservation—the need to align environmental priorities with community needs. When backed by science and open dialogue, protected areas like Los Haitises can be invaluable refuges defending endemic species. But long-term success requires garnering local support.

Inspiring Children Through Hands-On Learning

At an elementary school near Los Haitises Park, Liz is heartened to see curriculum intimately connecting children with their surrounding environment from a young age. Students enthusiastically monitor bird nests, plant saplings in the school garden, and take field trips to learn about mangrove ecosystems. Immersing kids directly in nature fosters an emotional bond with the wild spaces of their home.

It inspires hope that through such formative experiences, the youth of the Caribbean will grow into staunch advocates for conservation. Their future stewardship of these islands will be the deciding factor in preserving their natural heritage.

Embracing a New Covenant with Nature

From scaling palm trees to monitor hawks to freeing flamingos from captivity, Liz has witnessed profound passion and commitment to safeguarding the Caribbean’s biodiversity. People are forging a new covenant with nature, finding paths that allow both humans and wildlife to thrive in balance. The work has only just begun, but across these islands emerge promising examples of communities embracing conservation as innate to their identities and livelihoods.

Though challenges loom, from climate change to economic hardship, the Caribbean offers hope. Its wild beauty and richness of life endure as a testament to the resilience of nature. And its people are taking up the call to steward these natural treasures through the coming obstacles. With care, understanding and joyous curiosity, the hidden wonders of its untamed landscapes can flourish for generations to come.


Liz Bonnin’s journeys across the Dominican Republic provide an encapsulation of the wonders, complexities and frailties of the Caribbean’s diverse ecosystems. It is a world brimming with ecological treasures from endemic wildlife to coral reefs teeming with marine life. But delicately balancing these fragile environments with the needs of local communities remains an ongoing quest. The path forward lies in passionate conservation efforts backed by science, environmental education emerging from grassroots, and sustainable livelihoods keeping the wisdom of living harmoniously with nature alive. There are ample reasons for hope if action is taken in time to resolve escalating crises. The people Bonnin meets along her travels exemplify this spirit of dedication kindled by love for the islands’ natural splendor. The wild beauty of the Caribbean instills optimism that through care and collaboration, its vitality can endure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the unique wildlife species found in the Dominican Republic?

Some of the rare and endemic wildlife species of the Dominican Republic include the Ridgeway’s hawk, rhinoceros iguana, solenodon, and Hispaniola trogon. The island’s varied ecosystems harbor a rich biodiversity.

What conservation efforts is Liz Bonnin involved with in the Dominican Republic?

Liz helps retrieve a Ridgeway’s hawk chick to monitor the endangered population. She also witnesses the release of captive flamingos back into the wild after 20 years in captivity through conservation groups’ efforts.

What environmental issues does the Dominican Republic face?

Key issues are deforestation, unsustainable tourism, pollution, climate change impacts, and conflict between wildlife and human activity like overfishing. Habitat loss threatens endemic species.

How are people working to promote sustainability in the Dominican Republic?

Innovative resorts are reducing plastic waste and using clean energy. Ecotour guides foster coral conservation. Environmental education and sustainable livelihood projects build local commitment to conservation.

What gives hope for the future of the Caribbean’s ecosystems?

The passion of local communities to safeguard their natural heritage, grassroots conservation efforts, young generations connecting with nature, and protected areas securing critical habitats all offer promise for balancing human needs with ecological stability.

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