Relaxation: It’s Time To Loosen Up
By: Nelly Zapata, Jailene Velázquez & Clovis Albelo
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico is best known for its’ beaches in Combate, Buye, and Boqueron. On the contrary, few people know about the other qualities they have. Nature’s sounds and beauty bounds the power of relaxation. Puerto Rico’s diverse climate makes it possible to have a rainforest, subtropical dry forests and beaches. The Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, has reserves and refuges to preserve some of the elements and components of their natural resources. In Cabo Rojo, we can find the Boquerón State Forest, one of seven state forests managed by the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources. In 1964, 182 hectares were designated from the Boquerón State Forest to the Boquerón Wildlife Refuge. Later, in 1999, an additional 1,249 acres from the Cabo Rojo Salt Flats were added to the Refuge. Consequently, in 2009, the Act 233 designated the name “Iris L. Alameda Martinez” to the Boquerón Wildlife Refuge.
The Iris L. Alameda Martinez, Wildlife Refuge, also know as Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, National Birds Refuge and Boqueron Wildlife Refuge, is located at Boquerón, eight km. from the town of Cabo Rojo. The conservation of its wetlands helps protect the area from storms and floods. Also, it is considered the most important stop over for migratory and shorebirds in the Eastern Caribbean. The refuge presents typical characteristics of a subtropical forest including abundant sunshine, some rainfall, and temperatures that depend of the easterly trade winds. Furthermore, these characteristics are favorable for recreational activities such as walking, cycling and mountain cycling. Also, observation and bird-watching with binoculars are very common for relaxing and nature study.
In 1989, the refuge fishing resources increased with the construction of the fishing facilities which are still very popular, so don’t forget to bring your line and hook. Furthermore, the brackish-water lagoon which reflects the clouds and sky are perfect for boating, kayaking and canoeing through the mangrove channels. Waterfowl hunting is permitted on a split season basis between November and January. The most hunting species are blue-winged teal, common moorhen and common snipe. Moreover, the inviting picnic areas are exceptional for a short recess or for spending the day. Nonetheless, photography is present in every recreational activity.
The Boquerón Wildlife Refuge presents many different species to us in their fauna habitat as well as in their flora habitat. The refuge is surrounded by three dikes. To control the flow of fresh water six flood gates were constructed along the dikes. Also, it is the home for many kinds of different birds. It has a great diversity of them, more than 138 species have been listed, and 60 of them are observed regularly. During winter the Refuge provides food and rest for many migratory species. Some of those Species are the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) , the Belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), the Blue-Winged teal (Anas Discors) and the American coot (Fulica Americana) as well as many others. The majority of thesespecies come from North America and they can be observed between April and September. The flora is a very beautiful, attractive and important part of the refuge. The vegetation mainly consists of Mangroves and Cattail, which is the dominant fresh water plant. Mangroves are mostly represented by the Red Mangrove which scientific name is Rhizophora mangle, the Black Mangrove (Avicennia germinans) and the White Mangrove (Lagancularia racemosa). Robust submerged plant communities, they being, Ruppia sp. and Najas sp. are responsible in part for the refuge’s high wildlife value. However, the mangroves of the refuge play a very important role in the life of many animal Species, some of them being several species of birds, fishes and lizards. The mangroves are also a favorite roosting site for the waterfowls, and the West Indian Whistling Duck. Moreover, while visiting the refuge we got to see and identify some of these Flora species such as the Huey Pelu, Canario de Mangle (Yellow Warbler) which is a yellow bird about 12-13cm long, it breeds in the whole of temperate North America as far south as Central Mexico in open, often wet, woods or shrub. It is migratory, wintering in Central and South America. They are very rare vagrants to Western Europe and as we saw it also lives here in Puerto Rico, Pizpita de Mangle known as Northern Water thrush is one of the larger New World warblers. It breeds in the northern part of North America in Canada, and in the northern United States. This bird is migratory, wintering in Central America, the West Indies, and Florida; also Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. It is a very rare vagrant to Western Europe.
Furthermore, an important and special part in the refuge is the people that work and cares about the wildlife and plants all over the terrain. Watchman or vigilant, as they are called, come to work Monday to Saturday to make sure everything is in order and running smoothly. “Part of our work is to constantly check water and soil quality, also we check for new species and most important is to ensure that the public is doing an appropriately use of the refuge”, said Idelfonso Ruiz, Vigilant and Biologist of the Boqueron Wildlife Refuge. Every kind of people can venture and explore the refuge and it is open to all ages, especially college students that are doing research in topics related to wildlife and conservation. “We have research programs in the areas of Biology, Natural Sciences and Chemistry. Also, we are recruiting students in Social Sciences and Business Administration because of a recent social-economic study in how much money people from around the island are spending to visit our refuge”, Idelfonso added.
Likewise, “having contact with nature gives you a different sense of life, and valuation for your country” said Leonardo Aviles, a nursery student in the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus. He lives in Cabo Rojo, and visits the refuge regularly to practice his mountain bike skills. When we asked him what would he recommend to the people planning to visit the refuge, he said “Follow these tips to make your experience is fully enjoyable: always carry a backpack with food, bring water, get comfortable clothes and a pair of walking shoes, bring mosquito repellent, bring a camera, and bring bikes so you can use them to travel the entire path and it will be less exhausting than walking”.
Visiting the refuge may be a great experience, it is free of cost and you can learn about the types of plants and trees located in the area. In addition, you get to see different species (most of them endemic) around the extension of the terrain. If you are planning on doing some expedition around Boquerón, the Iris L. Alameda Martinez, Wildlife Refuge will be perfect for you.