Ecotourism is becoming a new tourism draw for the Dominican Republic. Many tourists are excited at the idea of seeing more than just the country's famed beaches.
The mountainous Cibao region is home to some of the earth's most beautiful scenery, secluded far away from the hustle and bustle of one of Latin America's top travel destinations. There were a reported 1.38 million visitors in 2015 to the D.R.'s protected areas. However, will ecotourism become a mainstay of the economy, if the deforestation ravaging in the Dominican Republic is left unabated?
|Pine species face extinction. Instagram|
Over the past few months, there has been increasing evidence of the problem facing the country, with Dominican citizens capturing images of deforestation on their smartphones and posting them on social media.
Abreu Report has recently written about the danger of extinction that some trees face as pristine forest is completely chopped down for profit.
"Tourists are looking for new ways to disconnect from daily life and explore nature in an environmentally conscious way," said Magaly Toribio, Marketing Advisor for the Dominican Republic's Ministry of Tourism.
"The Dominican Republic is known for its natural beauty, ranging from its famous beaches to lush mountains. We look forward to sharing it with travelers as we continue to develop ecotourism opportunities and welcome visitors looking for low impact trips," Ms. Toribio further added.
While Ms. Toribio's words sound reassuring, how will things play out in practice, if things continue to go the way they are going?
A new film about deforestation on the island of Hispaniola and the conflict which it produces between Haitians and Dominicans on the border, Death By A Thousand Cuts, is set to showcase to the world the severity of the situation and its implications for the future of the two nations.
Everyday I see new evidence of more deforestation, with shocking images on social media showing the movement of prized tree trunks throughout the island; in a never-ending, horrifying manner.
So, where does it stop? The laws of supply and demand means that the money that comes with illegal felling of trees is driving a thriving, new black market business. I call it new because in the Dominican Republic there was for a long time tremendous effort put into protecting the country's forests.
However, the numbers released by the government don't add up the way they used to, and it's getting hard to hide all those large holes in the mountainous borderlands.
"If you have a lot of what people want and can't get, then you can supply the demand and shovel in the dough." -- Lucky Luciano
As Mr. Luciano so aptly put it, I think that's what we are seeing on the island of Hispaniola, but what happens when there is nothing left to supply?
We have already seen what deforestation really looks like on the other side of Hispaniola, where you can clearly see the desolation of Haiti's mountains, and sadly it is now spreading and the possibility is ever more likely that the Dominican Republic too could one day be completely barren.
I understand that money is what makes the world go 'round, but you can't shit where you eat; deforestation can in no way be good for either side of the island. If the protection of Dominican forests is not encouraged, ecotourism, an industry that could one day bring in billions of dollars, will be killed on its track along with the micro-climate of Hispaniola.
By: El Conde