A recent BBC report highlights the need for better wildlife protection in UK overseas territories including the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). Along with the issues covered in the article, endangered humpback whales are also facing threats in this region. Historically considered as a migratory corridor to the breeding and calving grounds off the Dominican Republic, WDC data suggests TCI waters may be part of the breeding range for North Atlantic humpbacks. The threat of ship strikes, habitat degradation and pressures from tourism are increasing for whales in this region, leaving mothers and newborn calves most vulnerable.
WDC not only agrees that increasing protections are needed, but also calls for the UK to increase funding for education in this area. In partnership with the School for Field Studies, WDC has initiated an education program for TCI students on South Caicos. “We were shocked to learn that some local children didn’t even realize that whales lived off their coasts” said Monica Pepe, Conservation and Education Manager for WDC. “While funding conservation programs is essential, so is ensuring that the residents of the Turks and Caicos know about their natural resources and are empowered to protect them.”
This spring WDC’s North American office launched a program that connected students in the Turks and Caicos with students up the road from our office in Plymouth, Mass. Not only did they learn about whales and their habitats, they also participated in a cultural exchange by recording videos of their respective classes talking about everyday life (favorite foods, length of school day, average weather conditions, etc.). The goal of this project is for students to learn about the different regions humpbacks utilize and instill a sense of responsibility for protecting them.
WDC is seeking funding to continue its work to protect the humpback whales of TCI and to continue education programs in both the US and the Turks and Caicos Islands.