Conservation Leadership in the CaribbeanThe best person for the job is often nearby
Alexander Desuza pulled up to a white cement house and jumped out of our assessment vehicle, calling out for his two dogs. He had stayed on Barbuda during Hurricane Irma, and was evacuated shortly after the storm. Unfortunately, he was unable to bring his dogs with him and this was his first time back at his home to see if his dogs were doing well.
One dog was patiently waiting on the porch and the second dog emerged from the rubble near his home. Both excitedly wagged their tails at the sight of Alexander. As a Barbuda environment officer, he knows the island well and was driving our team of wildlife assessment experts around the island's mangroves and wetlands. Our job was to note the damage done to wildlife habitats and identify species present. Barbuda's wetlands provide critical habitats for key species, like Whistle Ducks and Yellow Barbuda Warblers.
While it was important for our team to begin work, it was also important for us to make sure Alexander's dogs survived Hurricane Irma's aftermath.
The dogs were in good condition, mostly stressed from the changes and unfamiliarity of the past week. Once they saw Alexander, they calmed down and were able to eat some food. He also gave them water.
It was heartbreaking to see so many animals without their families and without physical homes (95 percent of Barbuda's houses were destroyed). IFAW is committed to the care of all animals. Our assignment on this trip was to help the Ministry of the Environment assess wildlife - and we have already made reports on the wildlife we did locate.
It was a heartwarming moment to witness such a beautiful relationship between a man and his dogs - a trio who clearly love each other deeply.
The people of Barbuda have started to rebuild their lives, and the community has put a plan in place that includes their animals. We look forward to supporting Barbuda, its people and wildlife as they build back even stronger. Please keep up with our Hurricane Irma relief efforts as we help communities and wildlife in the Caribbean!