Imagine Aruba!

Welcome to the website of Aruba Birdlife Conservation. There is so much beauty in Aruba yet to be discovered. Nature is like a masterpiece in everlasting development. So many believe they know our little paradise, yet they are surprised again and again at the beauty Aruba has to offer; so many look but haven’t learned to see yet. I have looked most of my life but have only started seeing about 12 years ago. One of the intentions of this website is to help others to truly see the beauty of Aruba.
Initially, many reactions to the bird wildlife pictures I shared with others were received with scepticism. Some thought it was a joke and a hoax. Some even went so far as to call me a liar. Impossible!! These pictures were absolutely not taken in Aruba! At first I didn’t know what to do with these reactions. But what they taught me was that so many, never in their wildest dreams, could ever imagine that such beauty could exist right here in our little Aruba. This is the reason why I have given my entire collection of nature photography the collective name: Imagine Aruba! Our little Aruba is a paradise.
Aruba’s bird wildlife.
Birds are fascinating creatures. They are descendants of dinosaurs and connect us to the far gone past. Like bees and bats, birds play a significant role in nature’s evolutionary clockwork. They pollinate flowers and spread seeds. They help keep insect populations in balance. The state of affairs of our birds is an indicator for the state of affairs of nature as a whole and so they connect us to our future.
There are 236 registered species of birds in Aruba. More than three quarters of these are migratory. Aruba has two endemic subspecies: Athene cunicularia arubensis and Aratinga pertinax arubensis or the Shoco and the Prikichi as locals know them; our Burrowing Owl and Brown-throated Parakeet. After Aruba Birdlife Conservation’s campaign to save the Shoco from going extinct, it was declared Aruba’s fifth national symbol in January 2012. There are more species of birds whose numbers are decreasing dramatically, among which our Brown-throated Parakeet, one of the aforementioned endemic subspecies, and the Crested Bobwhite for instance. They are in need of urgent attention. Aruba also hosts ten species of terns that breed in our little paradise. This makes Aruba unique in the world. Such uniqueness deserves protection and conservation.
The variety of our bird species is fascinating. Some endure our times of drought; while others have difficulty doing without our waterholes. The nest of our Shoco is in the ground while the Prikichi breeds in termite nests. Our Brown Pelican has a wingspan of up to 2 meters, while our Blue-tailed Emerald has a body length of only 8 centimeters. We have simple colored birds up to our Dornasol, our Ruby-topaz Hummingbird; a true magician of ever-changing sparkling colors. Our Patrishi or Crested Bobwhite slowly walks around while feeding and our Peregrine Falcon hunts at phenomenal speeds. Some are carnivores; others vegetarians. Some are quiet; others are true musicians. And so I can go on. 
Just: ... Imagine Aruba!
Conservation efforts: donations and sponsorships help make things happen!
Our bird pictures have been instrumental to boosting national awareness of the beauty that Aruba has to offer, not only its natural beauty in general but more specifically the beauty of the birds that can be found on our island. Awareness is growing; from school children having new material to make their required presentations, from school teachers introducing such material into their awareness education programs to locals who have started enjoying their own gardens in a new way. But one photograph in particular struck home. It was a shot of the invasive Boa constrictor consuming one of our birds. This picture made headlines across the media and was the talk of the day for weeks. As the saying goes, one picture can speak a thousand words.
No matter how many projects we may initiate, bird wildlife photography will have to remain the core of our work. Much material required to keep the production and distribution of our nature photographs going, has suffered as a result of intensive usage. To date, nature photography is by far the most costly and time consuming part of our efforts. We are in need of donations and sponsorships to be able to maintain the flow and quality of the wildlife photographs. To those that have taken the effort to help us in the past, this website is your reward; thank you so much. Your donations and/or sponsorships make all the difference.
We have also taken other very important initiatives as well. The following are just a variety of examples.
In 2010, Aruba Birdlife Conservation took the initiative to bring about a national awareness campaign about the devastating consequences of the Boa constrictor, an invasive species. Numbers of certain species of birds and of our cottontail (more related to a hare than a rabbit) for instance, have dwindled. Although this initiative led to a successful national campaign and many Boa hunts, much remains to be done to get the Boa situation under control.
On February 4th, 2011, Aruba Birdlife Conservation initiated a campaign to rescue Aruba’s Burrowing Owl, or Shoco, an endemic subspecies from going extinct. The objective was to get the Shoco nominated as national bird of Aruba. Different media were used to broadcast the campaign. A YouTube short-film had the most impact with over 7.800 hits. To our great satisfaction, the Minister of Culture of Aruba took matters one step further and in January 2012 declared the Shoco one of Aruba’s national symbols. We are convinced that as a result, today the Shoco stands a true chance to survive. Our short-films can be watched on YouTube. Go to: Aruba Birdlife Conservation. We hope to produce more short-films in 2013.
In 2011, Aruba Birdlife Conservation took the initiative to organize Aruba’s first national bird count which was held throughout households around the island. Regretfully due to lack of funds the 2012 national bird count had to be cancelled. The good news is that the next national bird count is planned for March 18th, 2013. We approached the National Park Arikok for support and a solution was found; thank you FPNA!
The Department of Education is playing a significant supporting role as well. The score sheets will be distributed to all 12.000 pupils and students of Aruba.
The Central Bureau of Statistics is also playing a significant role in the national bird count; data input, analysis and reporting are being carried by the CBS. The Postal Services of Aruba is also lending a hand. Filled in score sheets can be dropped of at their facilities. The data produced by the national bird counts help us understand the state of affairs of Aruba’s bird wildlife. Getting a broad scope of citizens to participate - all school attendees of Aruba! - helps increase national awareness and create understanding and support for the need of nature conservation in Aruba.
In July 2011, Aruba Birdlife Conservation took the initiative to get three Ministers, the Prime Minister, the Minister responsible for Nature Affairs and the Minister responsible for Culture to pay a visit to the breeding site of Aruba’s terns. There they were introduced to Dr. Adrian Delnevo, who has been conducting scientific research on these breeding colonies for over a decade. The effort was not only aimed at boosting the awareness of our highest mandatories, but also to request them to determine these Important Bird Area Reef Islands as part of Aruba’s national park. We remain optimistic that this will happen one day soon.
In 2011 Aruba Birdlife Conservation was given the opportunity to present its ideas and plans to the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund Foundation, also known as the TPEF. One of the proposed projects caught the attention of the TPEF board members. One of Aruba’s important bird areas, the Bubaliplas, is quickly losing its quality as a bird sanctuary. Aruba Birdlife Conservation would like to see this sanctuary restored and maintained for future generations. It is one of the areas on our proposed list to be nominated as a part of Aruba’s national park. Interactions with the TPEF has lead to an integrated development project. In November 2012 the TPEF board arranged matters so that we could make a presentation to the Minister of Tourism about this project. The enthousiasm of the mandatory that followed and his press releases about his intentions to take this to the next level are very encouraging. We look forward to decisions to make the Bubaliplas conservation project become a reality in 2013, so that it will be rescued and once again attain its true status of an amazing Important Bird Area.
In December 2011, Aruba Birdlife Conservation initiated a campaign to bring a halt to illegal dumps popping up all around our little paradise. After six months of campaigning, the government stepped in which lead to the shutting down and sanctioning of such illegal practices. The government is looking into alternative green waste solutions and content and consequences of illegal dump sites are to be analyzed and tackled.
In 2012, Aruba Birdlife Conservation submitted a petition to the Parliament of Aruba - at the request of most fractions represented in parliament - to give the following areas a special status of protection through determining them to be part of Aruba’s Arikok National Park. The areas brought forward in the petition are: the California Dunes, Salinja Tierra del Sol (IBA), Salinja Malmok, Salinja Palmbeach, Bubaliplas (IBA), Sero Teishi, Spaans Lagoen (Ramsar), Mangel Halto, Rooi Bringamosa, Rooi Taki, Rooi Manoonchi, Reef Islands Oranjestad (IBA), all magrove areas, Rooi Lamunchi, Salinja Sabaneta, Reef Islands San Nicolas (IBA) and a strip of land alongside the coast of Seroe Colorado.
On February 6th, 2013, 12 members of Parliament submitted a motion requesting the Government of Aruba to protect the areas indicated in the petition and to declare them as part of Parke Nacional Arikok and to do such within three months. The motion was carried by all 21 members of Parliament; a unanimous decision.
Based on the outcome of the vote in Parliament on this motion, Aruba Birdlife Conservation subsequently sent a petition to the Government of Aruba with the request to ratify the request of Parliament. This petition is dated February 24th, 2013 and was submitted on February 27th, 2013, to the Council of Ministers through the Bureau of the Prime Minister of Aruba.
We look forward to a positive decision of the Council of Ministers of Aruba to declare these significant wildlife micro habitats as part of Aruba’s National Arikok Park. (The 3 relevant documents can be found in our library section).
The list of efforts is extensive. The items of the list brought forward here are intended to illustrate the conservation efforts we are making. There are not enough hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a year and years in a lifetime. So choices have to be made, priorities set, strategies developed, yes ... and more.
Breeding programs.
One of our very important objectives is to get breeding programs initiated to help prevent certain species from going extinct in Aruba. On the top of our list are the two endemic subspecies: our Shocos and our Prikichis. But more breeding programs are required for different species, among which the Patrishis (Crested Bobwhites) and the cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus nigronuchalis) as well. Your donations and sponsorships can help us get there.
2013: The Year of Going Green, The Year of Nature Conservation.
Aruba Birdlife Conservation chooses a theme for each one of its bird wildlife calendars. 2012 was declared as The Year of the Shoco, the Year of Wisdom, and it was. The Shoco was declared a national symbol in 2012, illegal dumpsites were closed down and many more nature friendly things took place.
We have declared 2013 to be The Year of Going Green, The Year of Nature Conservation. We believe that 2013 can be a top year for the conservation of our remaining nature resources.
Regretfully, to date, bird wildlife is not protected in Aruba. A legal nature protection framework came about in 1995. This legal framework can be seen as a general framework to which lists of species, such as a list of birds and lists of other types of fauna and flora have to be added. After seventeen years the lists have yet to be determined and implemented.
Aruba has one Ramsar wetland area and four Important Bird Areas (IBAs). To date, these areas remain unprotected.
Getting the flora and fauna protected by law as well as getting the microhabitats as brought forward in the petition to parliament are the most significant objectives of 2013.
Our conservation lobby work has been going on for over five years. We are very optimistic that these 2013 objectives will be realized in 2013. We keep our fingers crossed and hope that 2013 will be a great year for Aruba’s beautiful wildlife. We look forward to the positive decisions to be made by our Ministers as well as by our Members of Parliament. And please remember, you can help make a significant difference!
From hobby, to passion, to purpose.
What started out as a hobby twelve years ago, grew into a passion. Passion led to purpose. As mentioned, to date, most of Aruba’s wildlife is not protected and that includes our birds. One of the main purposes of Aruba Birdlife Conservation is to preserve Aruba’s bird wildlife for future generations including many micro habitats which our birds need to be able to survive. The roadmap to this destination is paved with awareness, education, lobby work, projects, and so forth.
From e-mails to calendars, from Facebook to website.
Over ten thousand hours have been volunteered to be able to bring everything together. The first bird pictures were taken just over ten years ago. Initially, we shared these pictures with friends by e-mail, who in turn shared them with theirs. The number of e-mail recipients grew to over five hundred among which an increasing number of non-residents. In 2009 a first Aruba Birdlife Conservation calendar was launched. The 2013 calendar is the fifth in a row. Thousands of these calendars can be found in households and offices around the island and many abroad. Over time, Facebook replaced the e-mail distribution system and the number of followers has been increasing ever since. This website, however, is a means to bring Aruba’s bird wildlife - and more - all together. We hope one day to publish one or more books and besides making short films available through YouTube, we hope to make an extensive film as well.
This website: a work in progress....
This website is a work in progress. At this time the primary focus is to help promote Aruba’s bird wildlife awareness among locals but also among our many visitors. The photographs of our birds are this website’s main attraction. All photographs are made in Aruba! More than 100 species of birds can be found under the heading ‘BIRDS’ and many more bird pictures are yet to be added. So too, many pictures and much information will be added to the headings "FLORA and FAUNA" and "THE FIELD" during the coming months. Important documents will be made available through the "LIBRARY" and updates given under "NEWS". Stay tuned. Most locals (and tourists for that matter...) have never seen many of the bird species that Aruba has to offer. We are creating that opportunity for young and old, for teachers and even more so for our students and pupils. For they are our future and Aruba’s nature should be part of their future. 
Once again, this website will remain a continuous work in progress!
Use of pictures of Aruba Birdlife Conservation.
Pictures from Aruba Birdlife Conservation, from this website or otherwise, may not be used without written consent. In cases where permission for use is granted, mention has to be made that the pictures are from Aruba Birdlife Conservation. In cases where permission for use is granted and pictures from Aruba Birdlife Conservation are used in combination with pictures from others, credit has to be given for the specific pictures used from Aruba Birdlife Conservation.
How you can help...
The foremost priority is creating and improving awareness. As a starter, please share the existence of this website with family members, friends and colleagues. Help share the beauty of Aruba’s bird wildlife and more among them so that they too may know of its existence and understand why we have to preserve our nature resources for future generations. 
Donations and/or sponsorship.
Aruba Birdlife Conservation is in need of sponsors to be able to carry on with its work. Aruba Birdlife Conservation is a foundation that is established in Aruba. It is a legally constituted not for-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO). The Chamber of Commerce registry number is S 1126.
The information you need to be able to make your donation can be found under "DONATIONS". Information regarding how to make donations from abroad can also be found there.
Your donations are very welcome and we thank you for your support to this effort.
Volunteers, advisors and gratitude.
Although the voyage started alone, over time many have contributed to Aruba Birdlife Conservation. Some have donated in silence; others have helped educate, varying from helping to understand our birds to conservation strategies. For the time being, I will only mention a few names; there are many more to be added.
Gratitude goes to Prakash Gupta and his AIG team for having the courage to sponsor the bird calendar for 5 years in a row. We thank Alice van Romondt and the Prins Bernhard Cultuur Fonds for their support. We are grateful to Tierra del Sol for their continuous support. To Search and Rescue Foundation Aruba, a.k.a. SARFA. Our gratitude also goes to Dr. Ricardo Gogorza, Dr. Adrian Delnevo and Prof. Dr. Ryan Peterson for their coaching and so much more. To Diego Marquez, MSc. and Ir. Noud Fransen for their continuous assistance in so many ways. To John Peters for helping with the development of our Boa constrictor campaign strategy. To Roland Peterson for his continuous ‘Silent Emotions’ publications in our local papers in support of our bird wildlife. To Erik Eman and drs. Maarten van Rossum for teaching me how to make bird wildlife short-films. To Aruba Airport Authority (AAA NV) and Aruba Ports Authority (APA NV) for our bird wildlife exhibitions held at their facilities, with special thanks to Alfonso Boekhoudt and mr. Fons Essed. To SETAR NV, our national telecommunications company, for placing the Shoco on the cover of their 2012 telephone book and through such have helped bring our Shoco into almost every home in Aruba. To the Central Bank of Aruba for producing a marvelous and world unique coin depicting our Shoco. To Zahira Zaandam for developing the first national bird count form. To Bethsarim C. van Koetsveld-Briñez for securing ABC’s domain name and for the super-swiftly improvised website for the first national bird count. To Elise Peterson for teaching me how to use Facebook. To drs. Marianne Soldaat for revamping our entire IT system. To drs. Richelle van den Dungen Gronovius for making this website become a reality!
To the Parliament of Aruba for their invitation to submit our petition for conservation of our list of microhabitats. For their motion to conserve these microhabitats which was unanimously carried on February 6th, 2013.
To Mike Eman, Prime Minister of Aruba, and his team of ministers for putting an end to the illegal dumps in Aruba and for the courage to move our island in the direction of sustainable, green energy systems. 
To Benny Sevinger, Minister responsible for Nature Affairs in Aruba, for his support to the Boa constrictor campaign.
To the board of the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund Foundation with special gratitude to mr. Jan van Nes, for their encouragement and for bringing the Bubaliplas conservation project to the next level.
To Minister Otmar Oduber, Minister of Tourism, for his intentions to implement the Bubaliplas conservation project.
To Michelle Hooijboer-Winklaar, Minister of Economic, Social and Cultural Affairs, for nominating our Shoco as fifth national symbol of Aruba and for making Aruba’s first national bird count become a reality and through such for stimulating nature conservation awareness and efforts in Aruba.
To Fredis Refunjol, Governor of Aruba, for his continuous support.
To my brother Albert Peterson for joining me in the field for the past two-and-half years. Some of his pictures from his collection “Wild Feathers of Aruba” are part of this website. My brother, Dr. Timothy Peterson for being part of our board. My brother Ir. Mark Peterson for designing our logo. And finally, drs. Annette Peterson-Bredie, secretary of the board but firstly my wife, for the many hours of work and support and her endless tolerance, understanding and care.
Thank you all for caring so much!
Greg Peterson                    
President of Aruba Birdlife Conservation