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The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has re-opened the Canoe Valley Interpretive Centre in Clarendon.
The facility is an information centre, which provides data on the flora and fauna of the Canoe Valley area, popularly known as Manatee Hole.
Speaking at the re-opening ceremony held on Wednesday (Nov.1), Chief Executive Officer of NEPA, Dr. Leary Myers, emphasized the importance of Canoe Valley as a nature reserve and as a part of the south coast tourism product.
“Canoe Valley is important to us at NEPA, because it was the first area selected as a nature reserve by the Jamaican government. It is a place we all know and love and it has become a favourite for many visitors to our island,” he pointed out.
He gave the agency’s commitment to the preservation of the area as a nature reserve, noting that “by maintaining the centre here, we want to encourage its use by Jamaicans from all walks who want to learn about the area”.
Dr. Myers informed that the Canoe Valley Nature Reserve covered some 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) and was made up of mangrove swamps, limestone and herbaceous forests. He informed that in addition to its most popular attraction, which is the manatees or sea cows, there were a number of caves that were home to seven bat species and where relics from the Tainos, the indigenous population, could be found.
The area, he noted further, was inhabited by four amphibian species, 23 reptile species and 23 species of birds.
Dr. Myers informed that in recent months, the agency has begun a fact-finding mission to log all the various plant and animal species, the people who live and work there, and the overall ecological value of the area.
“The NEPA established this information centre to introduce visitors to the numerous species of plants and animal life present in the nature reserve. We hope to further develop the centre into a mini-museum,” Dr. Myers stated.
Bernard Blue, Environmentalist at NEPA, said the agency was proposing that the Canoe Valley area be designated as one of Jamaica’s protected wildlife habitats.
“It is recommended that this area be declared a protected area in the near future and this process has already begun with the assessment being undertaken by the staff of NEPA, as well as other agencies such as the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, among others,” he said.
He also called on the public to play their part in preserving the habitat. “When this area, hopefully, is declared a protected area, it will require the collaborative efforts of all of us, not just NEPA, but the local community, students, visitors to the area. Hopefully in the near future, we can speak of the Canoe Valley Protected Area,” Mr. Blue said.