Ramble Pond Turtle Assessment and Pond Restoration Project- A Strategy for creating a model inland pond ecology with environmental education and recreational potential
The Trachemys Terrapen/Jamaica Slider turtle is endemic to Jamaica and is considered to be a “threatened” population. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals (1996)lists T.terapen as VU (vulnerable) and gives the reasons for concern as Category B1(small distribution and perhaps severely fragmented and Category B2c( continuing to decline due to losses).

The importation and establishment of other Trachemys species , such as T.scripta elegans from the United States is suspected and could represent a threat to the conservation of T.terrapen either through hybridization or competition for habitat. The T. terrapen population distribution and ecology in Jamaica , was investigated by a team from Conservation International in 1997. This preliminary study suggested that although the Caribbean is regarded as one of the world’s top 25 biodiversity hotspots and is high in reptile endemism (Myers et al 2000) it is depauperate in freshwqter turtle diversity . The most common resident in the Comfort Hall Ponds are the Haitian Slider Trachemys.decorata.

Jamaican Sliders have been described as occurring in duck-weed covered ponds or permanent bodies of fresh water including rivers , streams, ponds and swamps at low elevations. They have been observed to burrow on land under substrate during dry seasons. Both man made ponds and natural ponds with and without emergent vegetation are home to The Ramble Pond is therefore a likely location for the occurrence of T.terrapens.

In July 2007 Dr. Byron Wilson of the University of the West Indies teamed up with Internationally recognized Turtle expert James Parham to do significant Turtle assessments in Jamaica. One of the main aims of that exercise was to assess native slider populations using DNA techniques to determine the nature of the genetic status of turtle. Having obtained genetic material from a turtle sampled from the Ramble Pond Dr. Parhham sent confirmation in September 2007 that the turtle from the Ramble Pond was in fact a native Jamaican Slider. The Ramble Ponds is an ideal habitat for the Jamaican slider. Confirmation of the Jamaican Slider within the Ramble Pond means that the pond has to be conserved because of the presence of this rare Jamaican endemic.

The Ramble Pond is a large permanently ponded wetland covered by water hyacinths (Eichornia crassipe) , lots of algae, bordered by rushes and other emergent vegetation along the pond’s edges. The water is murky with thick mud layer underneath. It covers an area of a little less than half an acre. In addition to Ramble Pond there are two other ponds in the Comfort Hall area. Presently, the excess water from the pond has made its own path, a trench, via the land surrounding the pond, to the sinkhole.

Degradation is one of the priority focal areas for GEF SGP Jamaica. It includes damaged soil structure, reduced soil stability and fertility and by extension loss of soil nutrients through processes such as water erosion and water logging. It also includes soil erosion which leads to land slippage and increased. Over the years the fencing has been removed and animals now have access to the pond. Human traffic to the pond and use of the water increased with population growth whereas the volume of potable water has sharply decreased. As the rural road became more accessible, traffic on it increased, (250 feet of the pond is surrounded by the road), pollution, garbage and run offs from the surrounding areas have negatively impacted on its ecological health. The parish council discontinued its responsibility of the pond at least thirty years ago. They no longer consider maintenance of any pond their responsibility.

Biodiversity Conservation – Conservation and protection of the existing Turtle population and the creation of a Turtle Sanctuary and Model Inland Pond Environment with Experiential education and Recreational value. The pond, since its existence, has been the home of turtles, mostly the Haitian Slider but possibly the Jamaican Slider, which is considered to be threatened” by the IUCN, and or a hybrid population. The extent of the turtle population is not known, and a count is warranted. The object is to create a turtle sanctuary with an appropriate educational program. The pond is the home of various types of fish, tadpoles, frogs and other pond life.

Project Snapshot

Grantee: Comfort Hall Community Development Committee
Country: Jamaica
Area Of Work: Biodiversity
Operational Phase: Phase 4
Grant Amount: US$ 24,000.00
Co-Financing Cash: US$ 8,662.56
Co-Financing in-Kind: US$ 5,700.00
Project Number: JAM/OP4/1/RAF/07/02
Start Date: 1/2008
End Date: 9/2010
Status: Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Planning non gef grant
Efforts are underway to secure additional non-GEF funds. Possible sources include other local donors and community expatriates.
Inovative Financial Mechanisms
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Number of globally significant species protected by project 1
Number of CBOs / NGOs participated / involved in SGP project 1
Number of households who have benefited* from SGP project 10