The Negril Environmental Protected Area (18° 19’ 21.34” N, 78° 19’ 13.68” W) is situated at the western end of Jamaica, in the parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover. It consists of the entire Negril watershed - an area of 37,100 ha including unique ecosystems in the Negril Great Morass, the Royal Palm Reserve, and the Fisher River and Negril hills. The Negril Great Morass is Jamaica’s second largest fresh water wetland, with an area of c.2,289 ha. The Morass is limited by the Fish River Hills to the east, the Negril Hills to the south, a narrow beach strip (Long Bay) and the Caribbean Sea to the west. The wetland boundary is the same as that utilized for the designation of the wetland as a game reserve under the Wild Life Protection Act (NEPA) and determined in the Negril Environment Protection Plan prepared by NEPT in collaboration with NEPA (NEPT & NRCA, 1997). It follows ecological boundaries based on soil type, with the dominant soil being sedge and mangrove peat. The Royal Palm Reserve is located within the southern section of the Negril Great Morass with its most southern boundary being the South Negril River. The Reserve covers approximately 121 ha, comprising approximately 89 ha of forested peat lands and the remaining area occupied by open bog or marsh. The Fish River and Negril hills are composed of limestone which permits the surface flow of the North and South Negril rivers. The water makes its way to the morass which serves as a catchment area. The area is a major tourism and recreational asset. In 1991, the population in the Negril EPA stood at 19,911 with majority of the growth occurring in the town of Negril (Town Planning Department, 1994). Population within 4 km of the Royal Palm Reserve increased by 37% between 1970 and 1991(CL Environment, 2001). Population growth is directly linked to Negril’s expanding tourism industry and together both trends have placed intense pressure on natural resources. Negril is Jamaica's third largest tourist resort.
Studies of avifauna in the Royal Palm Reserve (within the Negril Environmental Protection Area) consist of at least 74 species, of which 54 are residents, 17 are winter migrants and 3 are summer migrants. Seventeen of the 29 endemic species have been reported for the entire Negril Environmental Protection Area. The creation of ponds in the area has resulted in an increase of waterbirds populations. The most notable change is the increase in West Indian Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna arborea. This species was reported from the site but not observed in 1986 (Sutton, 1987) but the population was more than 90 in 2006. This is likely to be the result of protection of the site from hunting and disturbance. The Royal Palm Reserve is one of the most important refuges in the world for this species. Other species of interest include: Porzana flaviventer (Yellow-breasted Crake), Aramus guarauna (Limpkin), White-crowned Pigeons Patagieonas leucocephala and the Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis. The Fish River and Negril Hills provide habitat for common endemic and migratory species.
Non-bird biodiversity: Other fauna found in the Negril area includes invertebrates (especially butterflies, dragonflies, ants, termites, bees, wasps, spiders and endemic land snails, ) and herpetofauna (including the the endemic Jamaican slider turtle (Trachemys terrapen and several species of endemic lizards and frogs), Trachemys terrapin is the only native freshwater turtle species known to occur on the island (Tuberville et. al., 2005). Unregulated and unsustainable hunting and sale of turtles (outside the reserve) is a critical issue needing immediate curtailment to protect this species.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Negril. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 14/12/2019.