Established in 1969, Washington-Slagbaai National Park, at 6,900 hectares, encompasses approximately a quarter of Bonaire at the northern end of the island. The park encompasses the area of the island with the greatest geographic relief including the highest point of the island, Mount Brandaris, a 243 m ancient eroded volcano. The park was once a large privately-owned agricultural ranch (exporting animals, and producing charcoal and aloe resin) and it still has free-roaming goats and donkeys (now accompanied by pigs) such that much of the habitat still bears the signatures of disturbance. The park has a generally well-maintained but narrow and sometimes steep road network for visitor access and is open daily with a minimal fee.
The park is an important nesting, roosting, and foraging area for the Globally Vulnerable Yellow-shouldered Amazon, sometimes known to support at least 1% of the global population of the species (the park is estimated to support 300-400 individuals). The number of Greater Flamingos using the coastal habitats in the park for foraging regularly exceeds the regional population threshold of 500 birds with the largest numbers at Goto Lake. Small numbers also occasionally breed within the park. Small numbers of the Near-Threatened Caribbean Coot Fulica caribaea breed in a pond near the entrance to the park. The park is an important breeding area for terns with 1% of more of the regional populations of Least Terns and Sandwich “Cayenne” Tern regularly breeding within the park. Although not reaching 1% thresholds, the park also hosts breeding concentrations of Snowy and Wilson’s Plover and migratory concentrations of shorebirds including Lesser Yellowlegs and Stilt Sandpiper. The park protects an important example of globally threatened dry scrub forest habitat with its avifaunal community including the restricted range Pearly-eyed Thrasher, as well as characteristic species (some of them distinctive subspecies) like White-tailed Nightjar, Brown-throated Parakeet, Caribbean Elaenia, Black-whiskered Vireo, Scaly-naped Pigeon, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Ruby-topaz Hummingbird, Blue-tailed Emerald, Yellow Oriole. Singles of the Near-Threatened migrant Olive-sided Flycatcher Contopus cooperi and Cerulean Warbler Dendroica cerulean have been observed in this IBA.
Non-bird biodiversity: One endemic plant species, one lizard endemic to island, at least seven endemic to ABCs, one subspecies of lizard endemic to island. A number of land snails endemic to either Bonaire or to the ABC islands are reported: Tudora aurantia, Tudora maculata, Leptinaria harterti, Brachypodella gibbonsi, Stoastomops walkeri (Moolenbeek 2006). The endemic freshwater fish Poecilia vandepolli is present in the freshwater streams and ponds (Vonk et al. 2007).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Greatest threats come from continued illegal trapping of wild Yellow-shouldered Parrots, destructive foraging of free-ranging goats, pigs and donkeys and potential depredation from feral cats on nesting terns and plovers, and possibly in some areas from human disturbance of tern nesting colonies, especially by park visitors and recreational sight-seers. Contamination of coastal lagoons and estuaries from an oil spill is a potential threat as a major oil shipping lane passes through the region and there is an oil storage facility on the southeastern border of the park.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The park is under management of STINAPA Bonaire National Park Foundation. Much ecological research at the park has been conducted by the CARMABI Research Foundation located on Curacao. Research on Yellow-shouldered Amazons Amazona barbadensis is carried out by a team from Sheffield University, and on raptors by the University of Amsterdam (2003, 2006). Inventory of waterbirds and freshwater fishes has been carried out by the Zoological Museum Amsterdam (2006).
Washington-Slagbaai National Park is a protected area since establishment in 1969. Both Goto Lake and Boca Slagbaai (within the park boundaries) are designated Ramsar sites.
Habitat and land use
Habitat on the island is xerophytic with many areas dominated by columnar cactus intermixed with low scrub and large expanses of land largely devoid of vegetation, especially along the immediate coastline. Within the park are some of the island’s most extensive areas of vegetated habitat especially several types of thorn scrub habitat, gullies (roois) with higher scrub vegetation, water holes that provide some of the only freshwater during extensive dry periods, and coastal salinas and shallow lagoons used as feeding and nesting areas for a variety of waterbirds. Common shrub species include Croton flavens, Cordia curassavica, Prosopis juliflora, Acacia tortuosa, Haematoxyln brasiletto, Capparis indica, Malphigia punicifolia and Casearia tremula.. Dominant cactus species include Stenocereus griseus, Subpilocereus repandus, and Pilosocereus lanuginosus.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Washington-Slagbaai National Park, Bonaire. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 08/08/2020.