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Seeking Safer Skies for Haiti's Rarest Seabird

Backed by Societe Audubon Haiti, William Hunter, Thomas Gillespie, Boukan Guinguette, Maria Jesus Martinez, Loretta Garden, Michael Garden, David Miller, Kate Stewart, Kate Wallace, and 90 other backers
DOI: 10.18258/7322
Grant: SeabirdsGrant: Seabirds
Raised of $5,000 Goal
Funded on 8/19/16
Successfully Funded
  • $5,621
  • 112%
  • Funded
    on 8/19/16

About This Project

The goal of our research is to reduce collisions of critically endangered Black-Capped Petrel with communication towers along their breeding colonies in Southern Haiti, where up to 90% of the population of this species breeds. We will map and characterize communication towers located along known flying corridors and colonies of petrels and record bird collisions through personal observations and interviews. After, we will present our findings through a report to CONATEL and public presentations.

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What is the context of this research?

The Black-Capped Petrel is the only known nocturnal bird in this family that nests in the Caribbean. It is endangered due to habitat loss, collection by humans and forest fires. As much as 90% of the remaining population nests on ground cavities scattered along the forested cliffs and ravines of the mountains of southern Haiti (Goetz et al. 2012). Many of these cliffs also offer the best locations for installing telecommunication antennas. Antennas placed along the petrel’s flying corridors pose a serious threat; their lights attract petrels who then get disoriented and fly into the towers or the cables supporting them. Many fall to ground with fatal injuries, are killed by predators or die of starvation.

What is the significance of this project?

Very little is known about the impact of communication antennas on the breeding population of Black-capped Petrels in Haiti. The sizes, locations, and chronologies of petrel breeding colonies remain poorly-studied. Nor have the locations and structural characteristics of communication antennas been described and mapped. To reduce the risk of petrel tower strike mortality it is important to understand the factors that affect it, including weather, siting, lighting and tower structure. This project will allow and provide recommendations to the owners of these structures and the regulatory agency in Haiti (CONATEL) to mitigate the risk of petrel’s collisions and offer a safer habitat to the species.

What are the goals of the project?

Our goal is to assess the determinants of Black-capped Petrel collisions with communication towers placed along flight corridors in Massif de la Selle, Haiti, and to provide recommendations to reduce the frequency of petrel deaths from tower strikes. To achieve our goal we will first prepare an inventory of communication towers, and then cross-reference this inventory with known petrel flight corridors to identify potential problem towers. We will then conduct field visits to these high-risk towers to gather information on collisions through interviews with tower caretakers and local residents. We will publish our findings and recommendations, and conduct presentations to the government, the communications industry, and interested public groups.


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Vermont Center for Ecostudies has provided a camera, binoculars, GPS units and camping gear. We will use public transportation as much as we can, and when necessary rent motorcycles to reach the most remote locations; occasionally we will provide gas when a collaborator offers his/her vehicle. Food cost estimate is based on 2-3 people cooking our own meals. We estimate that most of the time during field work we will be camping near our field sites with a few exceptions of overnight stays in nearby towns or fields stations. Communication costs (phone and internet access) are calculated for for the entire length of this research. An ARU (Automated Recording Unit) will be deployed on each site we visit to detect vocalizations of birds flying at night. We will be hiring a local guide as a gesture to build trust with local informants and for our own protection while working at night in rural Haiti. Printing supplies will be used to produce flyers in Kreyol/French about the project.

Endorsed by

Francoise is currently working on her Bachelor's Degree in natural ressources at Quisqueya University. I had the chance to be her teacher for genetics course and she was one of the best student with keen observation skills and research oriented. Seeking safer skies for Haiti's rarest seabird is critical for the country and for her in order to protect endangered species and maintain bird diversity.
This project is of immense importance in a country whose natural resources are diminishing due to human impact and impacts of climate change, including floods and droughts. Juan Carlos and Francoise are doing research that has not been conducted in Haiti before, creating important science and building the capacity of Haitians to preserve their own biodiversity.
This project is directly related to the work of environmental protection that Fondation Seguin has been undertaking for the past 12 years in La Visite national Park in Haiti.
This is a well-conceived project that will answer a critical question about the impact of communication towers on a Critically Endangered bird and make recommendations to minimize the impacts. The team is well-prepared to take on the work - their results will advance conservation efforts of the Black-capped Petrel.
I have worked with Francoise Benjamin since she first became interested in the conservation of the unique birds of Haiti. This project is critical to a better understanding of the challenges facing a globally threatened bird species so that simple solutions can be found among the stakeholders that are both the problem and the solution to its conservation. The talent and skills that Francoise and Juan brings to the project are certain to show positive results in favor of the continued survival of the Black-capped Petrel in Haiti.
I have grown to greatly appreciate the intelligence, curiosity, and passion Juan Carlos applies to conservation ornithology in the decade I have known him. A born researcher, he is uniquely qualified for this study through his years of experience working on conservation issues in Haiti. Although the research is tightly focused (and has a lean budget!) it will inform an issue critical to endangered bird species worldwide.
The nature of the impact of these structures is a key question, not just in Haiti, but throughout migratory paths in the Americas. I have full confidence in this team to produce useful data and their budget is entirely reasonable.
This project addresses one of Haiti's most important issues; it intends to bring a new understanding of how communication can affect biological diversity in the country. It is a well designed project plan, the commitment and expertise of Juan Carlos and Francoise in the field of Birds Conservation allow us to expect significant work and good result enable to move forward knowledge in that specific field of study.
The International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group has identified fatal attraction to communication towers as a significant threat to the species. This project implements the group's recommendation to research the factors that contribute to tower collisions and groundings and to undertake site-by-site and systematic (e.g., with industry, government) conservation actions to reduce and mitigate the threat. We are thrilled that Françoise and Juan Carlos are taking this on!
Francoise Benjamin is one of Haiti's most committed conservationists, and this project stands to benefit a highly imperiled bird on Hispaniola. Francoise has the skills, dedication and ambition to successfully execute the work, and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies fully supports her efforts.
I fully support this research project which will be a valuable contribution to protecting this endangered species and raise the profile of wildlife and natural habitat conservation in Haiti. It will also facilitate the great work Juan Carlos has been doing to create a pioneering cadre of Haitian conservation scientists.
I am really excited for this project. I know for sure that the researchers will realize this tremendous work so that Haïti can have more data on our endemic bird species. I hope that more students will be interested to in the conservation field.
This project addresses a very important immediate issue for one of the rarest and most threatened seabird species in the region. It is well conceived and do-able. The team is well-qualified and experienced. I enthusiastically endorse this project and look forward to seeing the results.
I've been working on Massif de la Selle where black-capped petrel nests in burrows in remote highland areas. In addition to the man natural threats on birds that have to flight long distances from their nesting sites to their feeding areas in the sea, this species is facing other like deforestation and subsequent erosion, predation by introduced species and, recently, collision against communication antennas. This project is essential to find the real impact of these towers on this charming and charismatic species. Please support
I applaud with both hands this project, which is a real alarm cry for life and biodiversity in Haiti. Indeed, it is important and urgent to point this threat that the communications towers represent for animal life in general and birds' one in particular. This project is a fight for life. Good job to the two young and brilliant initiators, Frances Benjamin and Juan Carlos Martínez-Sánchez. I wish you success!
Collision of birds with anthropic structures are not uncommon. In the case of an endangered species, these impacts might contribute to the decline of populations. It is therefore important to document collisions and their impacts on the Blacked-caped Petrel in Haiti to better understand the species and its interaction with communication towers. Ultimately, this project should help to design appropriate conservation measures. The project is well designed and Juan Carlos is dedicated to conservation in the Caribbean. Good luck to both of you!
This carries forward work that I started with others several years back, but that needs more focused attention. This is one of the most direct ways to advance conservation for Black-capped Petrel. I will continue to advise on this project where needed. I am glad to see Françoise take this on, with JC's support. It will be a great experience for her, and will help us to understand the scope and severity of tower collisions to this endangered petrel.

Meet the Team

Françoise Benjamin
Françoise Benjamin
Agriculture Engineer


Action pour la Conservation Biologique (ACOBI)
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Juan Carlos Martínez-Sánchez
Juan Carlos Martínez-Sánchez


Vermont Center for Ecostudies
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Françoise Benjamin

I am an Agriculture Engineer specializing in Natural Resources Management and Environmental Conservation in a country that faces severe environmental challenges. I am particularly interested in bird conservation because birds are an important part of our Natural Heritage and an excellent tool to raise conservation awareness. As a scientist in training, I find it is as crucial to get reliable data as it is to communicate the results of our studies to citizens, government representatives and stakeholders. I am devoted to raising awareness about the severity of the conservation crisis we face in Haiti and what we can do about it. My goal is to help governments, non-profit organizations and private landowners develop conservation areas and implement management plans for threatened and endangered species.

Juan Carlos Martínez-Sánchez

I am a Conservation Biologist with thirty years of experience in protected areas management, biodiversity conservation and international development. I have designed and directed conservation programs, managed protected areas and led research teams. I trained multiple stakeholders in ornithology and natural resources management. My goal is to engage governments, local communities, non-profit organizations and the private sector to collaborate in the development of conservation areas. I seek to deepen stakeholder engagement through leading innovative initiatives that will improve livelihoods and achieve measurable conservation outcomes. This includes certification of agricultural commodities, payment for ecosystem services and adoption of appropriate technologies.

Project Backers

  • 107Backers
  • 112%Funded
  • $5,621Total Donations
  • $52.05Average Donation
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