Mangrove Forests were once dismissed as swampy wastelands, but now scientists have come to value them as the remarkably diverse and important ecosystem they truly are. Mangroves provide essential habitats for thousands of species. They also stabilize shorelines, preventing erosion and protecting the land, and the people who live there, from waves and storms.
Mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs work as a single system that keeps coastal zones healthy. The trees trap sediment and pollutants that would otherwise flow out to the sea. Seagrass beds provide a further barrier to silt and mud that could smother the reefs. In return, the reefs protect the seagrass beds and mangroves from strong ocean waves. Without mangroves, this incredibly productive ecosystem would collapse.
Much like the Green sea turtle is a keystone species, mangroves are a keystone ecosystem. The presence of these marine plants affects the well-being and ability of GST and many other marine species to thrive.
"Mangroves are like the kindergarten, seagrasses are the secondary schools, and coral reefs are the high schools and colleges for fishes! And, once [the fishes] graduate from university, they return to kindergarten to spawn." — Khun Pisit, cofounder of Thailand's Yad Fon mangrove preservation project
CTC is involved in an independent mangrove restoration project. We have created a mangrove nursery in our pre-existing ‘Shoreline exhibit”. Once the mangroves have grown to a suitable stage, they are taken from the nursery and transplanted at selected shoreline sites around Grand Cayman.
Conservation efforts at the Centre extend beyond marine life and include the islands’ National Bird: the Cayman Islands parrot. The two sub-species of Cayman parrot – the Grand Cayman Amazon and the Cayman Brac Amazon – live among other birds in the Caribbean Aviary and are part of our active breeding and release program. Both parrots are at risk due to habitat loss, the illegal pet trade and natural disasters, such as hurricanes. While the Grand Cayman Amazon’s status is considered as Vulnerable, the Cayman Brac Amazon is listed as Endangered.
The Centre maintains a small breeding population of Cayman Islands parrots, some of which were born in the Aviary, and others were rescued. The Centre has had great success with its parrot breeding and release program since 1998– including having the first Cayman Brac Amazon pair to breed in captive care in the Cayman Islands and produce a chick in 2019. There are currently 14 Cayman Islands parrots living at the Centre in 2022.