story / editorial
Sherman Arch's Island Farm Provides a Refuge for Threatened Green
group of about fifty iguanas basks in the January sun. After
weeks of rain every minute of warm rays is precious. A dozen
tourists take photos of the iguanas. They place the lenses
of their cameras inches from the noses of these prehistoric
looking creatures. The five claws of the iguanas' front paws
are clasped in tension on the ground. The rear paws are relaxed,
folded alongside the tail. They are indifferent, without so
much as the blinking of an eye. They know the ritual, they
know what to expect. While some enjoy the spectacle of tourists
close-up, other iguanas watch the goings-on from among tree
branches 30 feet up.
Mr. Sherman Arch began the farm in 1980 as way to protect
the iguana from unscrupulous hunting. Their numbers depleted
to the point of threatening their existence on parts of Roatan.
In 1991, the year of the first cruise ships to Roatan, the
iguana farm was opened to the public. Still, the iguana farm
has been looked on as an Arch family hobby, a passion, not
as a source of revenue.
"The tourists are fascinated because they can get so
close to the iguana. You can pet them, you can hold them
because they are so tame. Nowhere else can they do that,"
says Nora, an islander tour guide who brings Coco-View guests
for a visit to the iguana farm every week.
Mr. Sherman began feeding several iguanas with banana leaves.
As the news spread from one iguana to another, more and more
were attracted by the regular, filling meals. "Every
day there would be more and more," said Gale Arch, Mr.
Within a couple months several Green iguana females laid eggs
in a construction sand patch near the Arch's house. Iguanas
lay their eggs in dug out holes four feet deep, so the artificial
sand patch immediately attracted their attention and is still
used today. Located 100 feet from the Arch home, the iguana
breeding sand pile offers a place of shelter to hundreds of
thousands of iguana eggs. Mr. Sherman always brings more sand
before the iguanas start laying their eggs in the spring months
of March, April and May.
Female iguanas are ready to reproduce at three years of age.
Each female lays around 35 to 40 eggs that, after a 70-day
gestation period, become little iguanas. If they are able
to avoid the predation of carnivorous Hammo Negro iguanas
and dogs, they can live up to thirty years.
The iguana gestation period is a particularly vulnerable time
for the iguanas as poachers hunt them ever more intensely
for their eggs, which are considered a culinary delicacy.
While the sale of the Green iguana as food is illegal in the
Bay Islands, the practice of hunting pregnant iguanas has
reduced the ability of the species to reproduce.
The 15-acre Arch property in French Cay is home to an estimated
6,000 iguanas. The most numerous are the Green iguanas with
around 4,500 individuals. There are also 2,000 Hammo Negro
iguanas, 2,000 Monkey Lalas or Jesus lizards, and hundreds
of Blue Head lizards. While the Green iguanas eat mostly plant
leaves, vegetables and fruits, the Hammo iguanas sometimes
eat young chickens.
Iguanas are not the only animals populating the farm. It also
shelters rescued exotic mammals brought in by Roatan police.
In 2000 two light-faced cappuccino monkeys were brought in
to the farm. In addition, Pancho, a young coatimundi (pizote),
was rescued by Roatan police and brought to the farm.
After Hurricane Mitch battered Guanaja and the east part of
Roatan, Mr. Sherman's farm took in several yellow naped parrots
native to the Bay Islands. The birds suffered numerous injuries
- broken beaks, wings - and many were starved, barely hanging
on to life. Mr. Sherman's farm provided them a place to recover
and get healthy. Nine years later several of the parrots,
those with broken wings and damaged beaks, still live on the
Sherman Arch with his daughter Gale.
south of the iguana area a 6,500-square-foot marine enclosure
serves to keep the marine animals. In 2000 Mr. Sherman discovered
thousands of tarpon bony fish trapped in a lagoon on the north
side of Roatan. When the property owner cut the mangroves that
served as a place for breeding tarpons, the fish found themselves
unable to swim out to sea. Mr. Sherman brought several barrels
and moved around 150 baby tarpons to his French Cay marine enclosure.
"We need to take care of what we have because tomorrow
it can all be gone," says Mr. Sherman. Six years later
the surviving 60 tarpon have grown to four feet and reach 45
The water enclosure is also home to six hawk's bill turtles.
Four of them were bought from poachers and two were brought
in after being entangled in shrimp nets. There are hundreds
of lobsters and even reef fish who swim in and out from the
enclosure until they grow too big to swim back into the open
An indispensable person in the Iguana Farm is Gale, who once
a month swims around the marine cage to make sure it is secure.
She also has a unique, life-long relationship with the farm's
iguanas. One of them, Ben, has resided in Gale's home since
she was three years old. Ben, six feet long, is still fed inside
the house; but as one of the biggest iguanas on the farm, he
prefers to display his dominance amongst his fellow reptilians
The biggest iguana ever grown on the farm is "Godzilla,"
a male that has grown to be 5' 6" long. The males achieve
their prime in their 20s and can be aggressive, swiping their
tails back and forth. "I've gotten scratched many times,
but never bitten," says Gale.
The Arches are using life experience and books to guide them
in raising the reptilians. Others have tried to raise iguanas
but failed. In 1998 an American tried to start an iguana farm
in Sandy Bay. The man paid local people to catch 135 iguanas
and place them in cages. "It was a disaster," said
Mr. Sherman. The few that were still alive were released into
turtle in its pen.
can only be caged if they are placed in cages as babies and
grow accustomed to the restrictions of movement. When the
caged iguanas grow to be three to four years old, they are
allowed to move around outside the cage and come back at night
to their cages. Eventually, instead of the cages, they choose
the protection of the trees.
iguanas don't want to be caged. They fight, bite the cage
and refuse to eat. Eventually they tear their snouts on the
metal cage wire and die.
2005 a foreigner living on the island cut a hole in the fencing
of the marine enclosure at the iguana farm. Twenty-one tarpon,
50-60 lobster and several turtles all escaped. About a week
later Mr. Sherman found the man in West End. "I told
him 'I forgive you, but please don't do it again,'" said
Mr. Sherman. "A lot of work went into saving and raising
There are other methods of ensuring the survival of the Green
iguana. In Belize there are several farms raising iguanas
to provide a food source for the local population. The pioneer
of iguana farming is Dr. Dagmar Werner, a German herpetologist
who founded the Pro Iguana Verde Foundation that manages the
Belize farm. In La Mosquitia there is the Iguana Vigilantes
group whose motto is, "The iguana is our heritage, our
future. We have to take care of it." Mr. Sherman supports
the idea of raising iguanas for food. "They grow cows,
pigs, chickens. They can also grow Green iguanas for food
as well," says Mr. Sherman. "It's a good thing."
Mr. Sherman believes that the attitude of the islanders towards
saving the Green iguana has changed. In some cases it is the
conscience that speaks to iguana hunters who, when visiting
the farm, are confronted with examples of healthy, proud and
unafraid reptilians comfortable with their surroundings. "I
feel I have accomplished something important. People who have
hunted iguanas before come here and tell me, looking at these
iguanas, they feel that they can't kill them anymore,"
says Mr. Sherman. "My goal is to feed them and protect
them," says Mr. Sherman.
In 2001 Mr. Sherman received the Bruno H. Schubert Environment
Prize for his efforts in protecting the Green iguana. "Mr.
Sherman is a true grass roots environmentalist. He's impressed
me so much," said Bill Brady, an American architect living
on Roatan since the 1970s.
B, Cs of Green Iguana Farm
nests increase the number of hatched eggs and improve the
overall survival rates of the Green iguana from 50% in the
wild to 90%. The iguana population is maintained at several
times the density in the wild, around 50 adult iguanas per
hectare. An efficient food for the reptile is a mixture of
rice, meat, bone, and fish meal, as well as papayas, mangos,
bananas, avocados, and a variety of leaves and flowers. Simple
feeding stations are kept and stocked with table scraps or
weedy vegetation. This makes for low-cost production before
the iguanas reach harvesting size.
While females are green year round, males turn orange during
the mating season. Male Green iguanas have highly developed
femoral pores on the underside of their thighs which secrete
a scent (females also have femoral pores, but they are smaller
in comparison to those of the males). In addition, the dorsal
spines that run along a Green iguana's back are noticeably
longer and thicker in males than in females, making the animals
somewhat sexually dimorphic.
Green iguanas are oviparous with females laying clutches of
20 to 70 eggs once per year during a synchronized nesting
period. The female Green iguana gives no parental protection
after egg laying, apart from defending the nesting burrow
during excavation. In Panama, the Green iguana has been observed
sharing nest sites with American Crocodiles and in Honduras
with Spectacled Caimans.
Young are usually hatched between June and July. The hatchlings
emerge from the nest after 10-15 weeks of incubation. Once
hatched, the young iguanas look similar to the adults in color
and shape, resembling adult females more so than males and
lack dorsal spines. Juveniles stay in familial groups for
the first year of their lives. Male Green iguanas in these
groups often use their own bodies to shield and protect females
from predators. The Green iguana appears to be the only species
of reptile which does this.
When frightened by a predator, Green iguanas will attempt
to flee and, if near a body of water, dive into it and swim
away. If cornered by a threat, the Green iguana will extend
and display the dewlap under its neck, stiffen and puff up
its body, and bob its head at the aggressor. If the threat
persists the Green iguana will lash with ts tail, bite and
use its claws in defense. Wounded animals are more inclined
to fight than uninjured ones.
Green iguanas use "head bobs" and dewlaps in a variety
of ways in social interactions, such as greeting another iguana
or to court a possible mate. The frequency and number of head
bobs have particular meanings to other iguanas.
On Roatan people are the biggest predator of the reptilians.
In other places, Green iguanas are preyed upon by hawks, and
their fear of hawks is exploited as a ploy to catch them in
the wild. The sound of a hawk's whistle or scream makes the
iguana freeze and become more easily captured.
Green iguanas are diurnal and arboreal and often found near
water. Agile climbers, iguanas can fall up to 50 feet and
land unhurt, using their hind leg claws to "hook"
leaves, branches or anything in a clasping motion to break
a fall. During cold, wet weather, Green iguanas prefer to
stay on the ground for greater warmth. When swimming an iguana
remains submerged and lets its four legs hang limply against
its side as it propels itself through the water with powerful
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
Emperors New Clothes by
of the most important elements in a free society are respect
for the truth and tolerance for the opinions of others. Just
as important is the role of free press in the public's right
to know about issues that affect the community. Another role
is controlling the egos of people convinced that they are
beyond criticism or public scrutiny.
In late January Roatan Municipal Corporation met to discuss
the issue of declaring me 'persona non grata.' I am proud
to say that out of all the characters ever and still residing
on Roatan--pirates, murderers, convicted criminals and thieves--it
was a journalist who was considered most troublesome. Unfortunately,
at least for now, I cannot hang this document of recognition
on my wall.
I have been fighting bullies since grade school. I know a
bully when I see one and recently, I found myself fighting
with one. Bullies who are not challenged become tyrants.
Some public officials seemed to confuse their responsibility
of acting as "public servants" with an opportunity
to "rule as kings." They disguise their own self-interest
with slogans like: "For the good of Roatan." Such
hypocrisy, if left unchecked, grows and spreads like cancer.
It can spread from top officials down to business owners and
ordinary people. Honest, hardworking investors are scared
off, while opportunists and scammers flock to a place permeated
with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy and arrogance can corrupt a society
to its core. The Bay Islands have an opportunity to prevent
this from continuing to take place. If no one challenges a
hypocrisy that surrounds us - shame on us all.
We at the Bay Islands Voice are only here at the pleasure
of the Bay Islands community. If Bay Islanders want to continue
to have a free press representing their interests, they need
to step up to the plate and voice their opinions in public
forums and defend their right-to-know.
As the Bay Islands develop, the need for a free press becomes
greater. The need for transparency in the actions of government,
government officials and businesses becomes paramount. Without
the ability to hold people accountable to their word, the
press's existence is of little value.
With this issue we commemorate launching the Bay Islands Voice
five years ago. In our first issue from March 2003, we published
our mission statement: "We will make all efforts to provide
a dependable venue for good journalism and exchange of ideas
that would improve human condition on the islands. (...) We
will make mistakes and we will never be perfect, but we promise
to improve with time and respond to your comments." Over
the last five years, we have kept our promise.
Bay Islands have provided everything we could ask for: a growing
and ambitious reading public, a generous advertising community
and plenty of stories to write about. We have gone through
high points and low points; but most importantly the up and
down ride was a thrill for everyone involved in the making
of the magazine.
Bay Islands Voice built opportunities for dialogue and created
actual dialogue among different cultural, ethnic, religious,
national and political groups on the Bay Islands. We haven't
always been right, but we've always taken criticism and corrected
our mistakes whenever we've realized them or were asked.
I'd like to think that we have provided an example of good,
honest and thorough journalism for everyone in Honduras to
look at and learn from. The Honduran press is mediocre at
best. It lacks objectivity, thoroughness, and most importantly
integrity. It can be, and often is, for sale. With all that
said, Honduras does have a free press and Hondurans do value
the venue for discussion.
story / editorial
/ local news
and Threats to Free Press on Roatan
Dale Jackson threatens refusal of operating license, sends immigration,
undertakes proceedings for removal from the Municipality
to escape criticism, scrutiny of his conduct in public office
the print publication of the article "Dale in Trouble
Again" in the January issue of Bay Islands Voice (BIV), Mayor
Jackson turned his threats to intimidation. Over the course of
the month Mayor Jackson initiated suspension of the magazines
operating license, demanded a launching of immigration investigation
and initiated a Roatan Municipality proposal to make BIV publisher
a "persona non grata."
While Mayor Jackson never asked nor received a follow-up story
from La Tribuna, which ran the Castle Rock charge story first,
in a phone conversation on January 8, Mayor Jackson demanded that
BIV write a retraction of the entire piece. "Everything in
the article is a lie," said Mayor Jackson, "I am the
most important person on Roatan."
On January 9, Mayor Jackson referred to Castle Rock writing a
letter withdrawing its charges against him, but he refused to
make a copy of the letter available to BIV. Castle Rock's letter
is in fact not an apology, nor a withdrawal of charges, but an
offer of reconciliation. In exchange for granting a business permit,
Castle Rock "offers 10 yds per month of concrete to be donated
to the Municipal for public works programs," Janior Fabricio
Romero, Manager of Castle Rock, wrote in the letter.
"You are not even Honduran and you shouldn't write about
Hondurans," told BIV publisher Mayor Jackson, who admitted
he only reads the BIV magazine when alerted to a negative coverage
of his persona. Mayor Jackson again stated he will not renew BIV
operating permit for 2008. BIV has had a Roatan Municipal operating
permit since 2003, with 2006 and 2007 permits approved by Mayor
January 9, the harassment followed with Bay Islands Immigration
Chief Mario Pacheco calling BIV publisher at 8:30pm and demanding
an immediate meeting. Pacheco refused to give reason for the demand
and refused to talk to the legal representative of BIV. "The
reason I want to see you is because I want to see you," said
Pacheco. On January 15, based on a written Roatan Municipality complaint
signed by Mayor Jackson, BIV publisher's US passport was seized
"to investigate application for residency."
During a meeting with Governor Arlie Thompson, Mayor Jackson was
asked to point out all inaccuracies in the article "Dale in
Again." Mayor Jackson had comments about the
photo used with the article and said that, unlike the article states,
he no longer operates under Diamond Jack Construction but owns the
construction company in his own name.
On January 25, the Municipality of Roatan held a corporation meeting
in which, as a point on the agenda, a proposal to make BIV publisher
"persona non grata" was discussed. According to Mayor
Jackson, Roatan Municipal board voted to demand the halt of "further
printing of Bay Islands Voice until operating permit is granted
and immigration issues clarified."
The US Embassy has contacted Mayor Jackson to discourage him from
considering refusal of the renewal of the BIV operating license.
"I strongly encouraged him [Mayor Jackson] to engage with you
in a constructive manner over the disagreement he has with your
stories, or, failing that, simply to ignore your reporting,"
wrote Douglass Benning, US Consul in Tegucigalpa. "As a public
figure, being the subject of such criticism could not be surprising."
cutting on a municipal site in Flowers Bay (Photo: Roatan Marine
in West End
tourist hub of Roatan looks to authorities for help in bringing
the bar noise under control
soon became evident that the concerns of the petitioners lay not in
the operating hours of the bars but in the noise level. "We are
asking to play your music in a reasonable way and not to disturb your
neighbor. If you want to play your music loud, then enclose your place,"
said Lorna Watler, who gathered 60 signatures for the petition. "Community
should come first, not economics."
The noise level goes beyond simple economics and lost sleep. Maud
Watler described a situation where her grandson got an asthma attack
which she suspects was triggered by persistent noise coming from a
bar with loud live music. "We thought he was going to die,"
Maud Watler said at the meeting.
While the national municipal law stipulates a 10pm closing time for
bars and discos, Roatan Municipal has extended these hours until midnight
for years. Half a dozen establishments have had live music concerts,
while the municipality issued only two live music permits. While Mayor
Jackson hired extra Municipal Police, fewer of them than under previous
administrations are sent to West End. "Only when it suits the
Municipal they want us to stay open," said Etches.
"We need to have two, three policemen telling you to lower the
noise. We will remind you two, three times and eventually we will
shut you down," said Joe Solomon, chief of Municipal Police.
"[Noise] detracts from the very beauty, uniqueness and draw of
your island," wrote Nate Scott, a tourist who stayed at Lost
Paradise Inn, but complained of the noise coming from Fosters Bar
until 2am. "Don't put all tourists in one box. We have tourists
who can't sleep at night and complain of the noise," said Lorna
Watler. "The only way to reduce the level of noise is to soundproof
The people concerned about the noise made one point clear: "We
don't want to hurt the bars. We want all bars to be as good neighbors
as Sundowners," said Cynthia Miller, West End resident.
a Municipality meeting, Lorna Watler, a West End resident, shows
a petition to control noise level in West End.
Through a lack of vision about how West End community should grow
and through failure to act when approached for help, the Municipality
of Roatan has allowed for a simmering conflict between West End bar
owners and residents concerned about noise.
These concerns have been brought to the attention of Roatan Municipality
for years. Last year on July 7, Aaron Etches, West End patronato representative,
presented a patronato document asking Mayor Jackson to tackle the
noise concerns in West End.
"[Mayor] Dale [Jackson] let us down. We went begging for help
and they let us down time and time again," said Maud Watler,
West End resident and restaurant owner. "Wherever they are dealing
with West End people, he just walks out."
An October 31, 2007, petition signed by six hotel owners and 60 West
End residents pleaded for reducing the noise. "We are actually
losing tourists because of the noise," said Lorna Watler, a West
Finally, on January 14, an emotionally charged meeting discussing
West End drinking establishments' operating hours and noise levels
took place at the Roatan Municipality.
A four-point petition to limit the operating hours from 4pm to 10pm,
Monday through Thursday, 8pm to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays
and to keep all bars and discos closed on Sundays, was presented and
discussed. "Some people bought businesses based on existing operating
hours. It [change of hours] will affect the value," said Thomas
Brousek, owner of Eagle Rays.
Are the Groupers?
the first time in Saint Helene island history, the community has been
active in protecting its fishing resources
year was the first time that Helene community decided to ask for
help in protecting its fishing resources. For two weeks two Preventiva
police were given lodging and food on Helene; in return they would
do boat patrols and be prepared to arrest anyone engaged in illegal
fishing. "I was very impressed with how the Helene community
prepared to protect its resources," said Alvin Jackson, board
of directors member of Roatan Marine Park, who saw the preparations
a week before the full moon. Indeed one boat with four divers was
spotted and its Guanajan owners were let go with a warning.
While police helped catch a poacher with a live turtle and managed
to save the animal, patrolling has limited effects. The poachers
on Roatan use several techniques to evade detection and arrest.
"We are concerned for dozen of boats coming at one time. They
swarm in and police would be unable to control this," said
James Foley, Director of Research and Development at Roatan Marine
According to Foley, grouper breeding cycles are complicated and
a decline in spawning in one location can have disastrous consequences
hundreds of miles away. Fertilized grouper eggs travel with the
sea current for many miles. Grouper eggs fertilized in the Bay Islands
might grow up in Belize. Groupers growing up in Bay Islands come
from spawning events to the east and northeast of the archipelago.
The water temperature, reportedly higher this year than last, could
be another reason for the change in the breeding cycle. For now,
Saint Helenians celebrate the success of the conservation effort.
They also hold their breath that during the second full moon of
the year on February 20, the even bigger black groupers will come
passage between Morat and Barbarat, not far from the two grouper breeding
annual spawning of Saint Helene groupers is not only a chance at
boosting the fish population, but a bonanza for poachers. Every
first full moon in January, two sites northeast of Barbarat: North-East-Bank
and Bungas Nose, has become only one of two grouper spawning locations
on the Bay Islands. Red and later black groupers come there from
as far as Utila and Cayos Cochinos.
While the first full moon of 2008, wolf moon, fell on January 22,
no groupers have been spotted on that night. "The groupers,
if scared by poachers, can actually abandon a breeding site,"
said Wally Bodden, Saint Helen representative to Jose Santos Guardiola
municipality. On January 24, the groupers finally showed
For dozen of years Helene community has witnessed fishermen, and
spear fishermen coming in boats mostly from Guanaja, killing groupers
in their hundreds. The groupers are distracted by spawning and are
an easy target for the fishermen.
story / editorial
January, Roatan Municipality and Mayor Jackson has managed to stay
in the national news. On January 29 Tegucigalpa-based Radio America
reported on Mayor Jackson's construction company, which has ignored
the Municipality's moratorium (November 1 thru January 31) on heavy
site construction and conducted heavy construction work on a supermarket
site and a Municipal road in Coxen Hole. An article in La Prensa
reported that Clive Ebanks, President of Roatan's National Settlers
Council, filed charges against abuse of authority for doing construction
work. Rod Reconco, Public Ministry's Prosecutor based on Roatan,
is investigating the charges.
This is not the first time Mayor Jackson has been involved in cases
of damage to the environment. Roatan Marine Park has documented
a case in which Roatan Municipality ordered and permitted mangrove
cutting in Flowers Bay. "Workers confirmed they had orders
from the Municipality to clear the mangroves down to the shoreline,"
reads the October report. "Not all the trees by the water were
mangroves," Mayor Jackson commented on the matter.
In violating a November-February heavey construction ban - Mayor
Jackson's construction company works on a site behind Bojangles.