Christian Valley IBA is in south-west Antigua, in the volcanic Shekerly Mountains. The valley lies to the north of Boggy Peak (Antigua’s highest mountain). It is surrounded to the south and east by this peak and Sage Hill, with Mount McNish to the north-east. Walling’s Forest IBA (AG008) is c.4 km to the east of Boggy Peak. The entrance to Christian Valley is from the road between Jennings and Bolans. Along the entrance road is the ruin of the colonial Blubber Valley sugar estate house (now surrounded by a chicken farm). The Christian Valley estate house lies at the end of the road. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the surrounding hills served as a refuge for escaped African slaves (“maroons”). Maroon trails are still used by foresters and farmers.
This IBA is significant for supporting populations of nine (of the 11) Lesser Antilles EBA restricted-range birds that occur in Antigua. Within Antigua, some of these species (Bridled Quail-dove Geotrygon mystacea, Scaly-breasted Thrasher Margarops fuscus, Pearly-eyed Thrasher M. fuscatus and Antillean Euphonia Euphonia musica) are entirely confined to the Christian Valley and Walling’s Forest IBA (AG008) ecosystem. A significant population of the Near Threatened White-crowned Pigeon Patagioenas leucocephala also occurs at this IBA.
Non-bird biodiversity: No Globally Threatened or endemic species have been recorded, but the area has a diverse flora and insect fauna. Seven bat species (including Antillean fruit-eating bat Brachyphylla cavernarum and greater bulldog bat Noctilio leporinus) have been documented.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Christian Valley is state owned. It is the subject of a watershed management program administered by the Forestry Division (Ministry of Agriculture) which affords the area some protection. The draft Forestry Act (of the 1990s) which would enable formal protection to this area has not been enacted. A government agricultural station in the valley oversees tree fruit production. Logging for building and charcoal is a real threat, as is the conversion of forest as a result of the expansion of human settlement, tourism, and agriculture. Water from the valley flows into the sea at Lignumvitae Bay, the site of the major tourist developments of Jolly Beach and Jolly Harbour.
Authors Joseph Prosper, Victor Joseph, Andrea Otto, Shanee Prosper (Environmental Awareness Group)