BCI, in collaboration with the NRCA/NEPA, Jamaica, has purchased Stony Hill Cave and the land surrounding it, permanently protecting this critical habitat.

Jamaican flower bat. Photo by Brock Fenton.

AUSTIN, TX (May 20, 2022) – Bat Conservation International, in collaboration with the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA)/National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), Jamaica, has purchased Stony Hill Cave and the land surrounding it, permanently protecting this critical habitat. The cave is home to the last known maternity roost for the Critically Endangered Jamaican flower bat (Phyllonycteris aphylla).

“Stony Hill Cave is one of the most important sites to protect bats anywhere in the world. Establishing long-term protection for this area is essential for the Jamaican flower bats’ survival as it is confined to this single cave,” stated Dr. Jon Flanders, Bat Conservation International’s Director of Endangered Species Interventions.

The Jamaican flower bat is found only in Jamaica and, until recently, presumed extinct. However, the confirmation of a small colony of Jamaican flower bats using the Stony Hill Cave inspired hope that dedicated conservation measures could protect this bat species. Since 2018, Bat Conservation International and the NEPA, Jamaica, have been working together to identify ways to ensure long-term protection for this and other threatened bat species on the island. The purchase of Stony Hill Cave was identified as a priority action.

“When we re-discovered the bat species in Stony Hill Cave in 2017, it had not been recorded in more than 50 years in its known roost, which is the St. Clair Cave in St. Catherine and also in the Cockpit Country Protected Area,” said Andrea Donaldson, Senior Manager, Conservation and Protection Sub-division of NEPA. “The protection of this cave is in line with NEPA’s efforts to manage the natural environment in Jamaica and where species like the Jamaican flower bat are threatened, species management strategies are implemented to protect them and their habitats, thereby reducing the likelihood of extinction. To date, all the work to protect the species could not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of all involved.”

With almost half of the 21 species of bats found in Jamaica using caves, protecting vulnerable sites like Stony Hill cave is critical for species survival. Stony Hill Cave is especially vulnerable as this “hot cave” is sensitive to any changes as they can quickly alter the internal temperatures (up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit) that the bats rely upon. Up to five species of bats are known to use different parts of the cave to reproduce and raise their young.

“We were alarmed when we realized that a road runs right over a section of the cave. Any maintenance or construction work has the potential of breaching the cave and creating new openings, which would allow cool air into the roosting chamber and further imperil the species,” Dr. Flanders said. “Even worse was the prospect of having a section of the cave collapse and close off access.”

The purchase of this important cave is the result of a strong working relationship with the National Environment and Planning Agency, the staff, members, and donors of Bat Conservation International, and the landowner Mr. Donald Moore who recognized the bats’ peril and continues to be involved in bat conservation.

About Bat Conservation International
Founded in 1982, Bat Conservation International is a global conservation organization dedicated to ending bat extinctions. Around the world, bats are under unprecedented threat from widespread habitat destruction and other stresses. Without concerted international action, bat populations could continue to fall, driving species to extinction. Cave conservation is vital for the survival of many bat species. Bat Conservation International is working with partners and local communities around the globe to protect critical sites such as Nakanacagi Cave in Fiji, Bracken Cave Preserve in Texas, and now Stony Hill Cave in Jamaica. For more information, visit batcon.org.

Media Contact:
Javier Folgar
Tel: 512.327.9721 ext. 410
Email: jfolgar@batcon.org

About the National Environment and Planning Agency of Jamaica
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is an Executive Agency of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. The Agency became operational on April 1, 2001 and is the lead government agency with the mandate for environmental protection, natural resource management, land use, and spatial planning in Jamaica.

Media Contact:
Ollyvia Anderson Leach-CDMP, MCIPR
Tel: 876-754-7540 Ext. 2751
Mobile: 876-564-9397
Email: ollyvia.anderson@nepa.gov.jm