Manatees range in color from gray to brown. Their 2 small front flippers and their flat, horizontal tails are used to move them along the sea and river bottoms. They have very small eyes and no outer ears yet they are thought to see and hear quite good. The average adult can weigh from 1,500 to 1,800 pounds and can measure ten to 12 feet in length. They can live from 50 to 60 years in the wild and much longer in captivity. They are vegetarians and are quite gentle and slow moving.
The Antillean Manatee (pictured above), a Dominican Republic native, is one precarious survivor from an insane killing from the old Spanish colonizers who believed that Manatee meat was an aphrodisiac and had the taste of seven different kinds of meats. Still in peril from the actual population, the Haitians poachers are still a major threat or this endangered species. It is a rare experience to have a close encounter with these elusive creatures, but it can happen while diving within the sanctuary.
Interesting fact: Did you know the word Manati came from the language of the original inhabitants of the island, the Taino Indians? They gave this marine animal its name. it was considered to be sacred. It is also thought that when people saw mermaids, known in Spanish as Sirens, they were really the manatee. More Taino words used today.
The Jaragua Sphaero
The Jaragua Sphaero also known as the Dwarf Gecko scientific name: Sphaerodactylus ariasae. This little lizard was discovered in 2001 by a Penn State University scientists. This little creature fits on a Dominican Peso that is about the same size as a U.S. quarter. The Jaragua Sphaero measuring 16 to 18 mm, about ¾ of an inch, from the snout to the base of the tail, is one of the world’s two smallest known reptiles. It is found in Jaragua National Park on the remote island of Beata. It feeds on insects and fruits.
Heteropoda Venatoria, the common name is Huntsman Spider.
Also known as the Giant Crab Spider, Housekeeping Spider and Banana Spider.
This is a very common spider found in tropical and sub tropical areas throughout the world. Its leg span can reach 5 inches. I love the mask it is wearing that gives it a very fierce look. They can move very fast which also makes them a bit frightening but they are pretty much harmless, usually running away when a human approaches. They normally eat all types of insects, especially cockroaches, crickets and moths. For this reason many people do not mind this spider setting up home in their barns and sheds. They hunt on the go, usually at night, and do not spin webs attacking their prey before they even realize what happened. They can fit into tiny places because of their flat bodies.
If this spider does bite it is a little painful but not deadly or dangerous and many reports say that when they are disturbed they play dead. Some say it is bad luck to kill this spider as it helps us humans by eating all those nasty insects.
Thank you Tony for the information. There are some great spider pictures and information on the Dominican Spiders Blog.
in Dominican Spanish: Mayes (may-gee’s) (found near the sea) and Gegenes (found in the hills). No matter what you call them these nasty little creatures are true bloodsuckers. They are known as Punkies, Midges, Black Gnats, and Black Sandflies. (In Spanish: Moscas de Arena, Chaquistíes, Zancudos Negros). These loathsome flies come from the family Ceratopogonidae. They are teeny, tiny, biting, persistent little buggers that are, in my opinion, worse than mosquitoes. Less than ¼ inch long and can get through a normal window screen with no problem. No problem for them but big problems for their unawares meal that just may have your name on it!
Since the noseeum cannot be seen (maybe this is why they have this nickname??) and the immediate bite can’t be felt, they can make your blood a feast before you really know what’s happening. Walking along ever so innocently one can easily stir up a swarm without knowing. If you’re lucky they will swarm. In a swarm they can be seen, a dark foreboding mass. The only problem with this swarm is they can enter any open body cavity (i.e. the mouth and nose). If you happen to find yourself in a swarm I strongly suggest that you close these openings. That is unless you want to be choking on their little, bitter tasting carcasses (yes, I know the taste well). If you have been swarmed move along quickly and get out of their territory, as they don’t like to travel very far from their home. So, I say, when you see a black cloud of flying bugs coming toward you..RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!
These blood sucking mini vampires usually live in shrubs and ground cover. Along the water, marshlands, beaches and areas where it is damp. But they can be found just about anyplace. Even in the soil around your home or in your favorite potted plant. They are unlike mosquitoes as they do not need water to produce their offspring. Moisture will do just fine for them and their offspring.
The female, the only gender of these vicious little buggers that sucks blood, will get you before you know what is happening. She needs the protein in your blood for her to be able to procreate and be mommy to the next generation of these relentless creatures. She will find you by smell. As with any persistent woman out for blood, it is not easy to hide. This unrelenting female will suck the blood of anything that has this red substance flowing through their veins.
After taking the blood, of course, they need to leave you a little gift so you remember them. Left behind is a little red blotch that is extremely itchy that shows itself a few hours after the attack. The skin is usually raised and there is a small center red dot where they stuck you. Try not to scratch these red spots as they will just get itchier and could get infected.
The red spots can plague you for a few hours up to a week or more. Usually, there are many blotches and you can look like you have some sort of disease before they turn from bright red to a light fading pink. Rest assured the blotches will disappear in time. All that will be left behind is the memory of what these minuscule, almost invisible vampire-ettes can do to reek havoc on your nerves and flesh. You will for sure remember to watch out for them in the future, even if you can’t see them.
Be sure to use some type of insect repellant. Something with DEET is best. It is said that if you do not want to put those chemicals on your body that you can use Catnip, lavender, cedar, or even patchouli oils. Don’t wear light colored clothing as this attracts bugs. They say (do you know who they are?) that eating too many bananas can attract biting bugs. If you eat garlic or eat lots of hot peppers (bugs and humans alike won’t come near), take vitamin B or brewers yeast, this is supposed to help also. To ease the itch rub parsley, lemon balm, or the inside of a banana peel on the spot. (*NOTE-these are all things I have read and some I have tried myself. Use what is best for you. These natural remedies are not tested and may not work for you. I just like learning of the natural ways to rid myself of bugs and their after effects. This is probably why I always have bites on my body)
Interesting note – these tiny insects are found in abundance in amber. Seemingly attracted to the color of the fluid. The DMS extracted from these pesky creatures has been very helpful.
The Hispaniola Boa / Boa de la Hispaniola (Epicrates striatus)
This boa is a native to this island and can be found mostly on the Dominican Republic part of Hispaniola. The Boa de la Hispaniola also known here as the Culebra Jabá has been seen on other Caribbean islands as well. This snake, like all snakes, plays an important roll in the environment by controlling pests such as rodents and birds that are bad for agriculture. This snake is the largest snake found in Dominican Republic measuring up to 4 meters in length. They are nocturnal and like to hang out in tall grasses near water, in caves and hollow trees. Sometimes, if you are lucky you may see one sunning itself in tree branches, on a rock or maybe on a dirt road but spotting one is not easy. They are also good swimmers. Their colors vary from shades of black, brown, gray and even red. As with all constrictors, the mother gives birth to live young. She carries her eggs inside for between 192 to 218 days and she can carry about 25 babies at a time.
Dominicans are afraid of snakes, like many people the world over. The government and environmental people are trying to make the people aware that the snake is not poisonous. It is a good thing for the environment. They are trying to deter the killing of this much-needed creature.
The Dominican Zoo, Parque Zoológico Nacional Arq. Manuel Valverde Podestá República Dominicana, in Santo Domingo (ZOODOM) has this and other reptiles on display in their completely remodeled snake house.
Continue learning about The Creatures of Dominican Republic – Page 3 Winged
This furry small mammal creature looks like a mix between a large guinea pig and a small groundhog, with some rat-like looks thrown in for good measure. They are only found on the islands of the Caribbean where they are, for the most part, the last indigenous living land mammal. Their walk is more or a waddle. When they are frightened this slow waddle can change into a fast high hop. Using this hop or their good climbing skills is how they escape their predators. The Hutia have an almost naked tail that is a little scaly. They do have claws. Mainly vegetarian, they live on roots and fruits which they eat when they come out of their burrows, hollow trees, or nesting boxes where they live, after dark. The small creature closely resembles the rabbit having the same nesting and eating habits.
The Hutia is becoming increasingly rare. They have been hunted and have not been able to repopulate as fast as they are being taken. Also with their habitat slowly diminishing they are slowly disappearing from existence. These cute fuzzy creatures have been hunted since the Taino days. Their meat was considered quite tasty by the indigenous peoples and also by Columbus and his European gang. The Hutai does well in captivity and hopefully, soon the Dominican people will start raising/farming them as a food crop. Let’s hope that we humans can protect these little furry island mammals and once again see the Hispaniolan Hutia romping and bouncing freely through the Dominican landscape.
Interesting BBC video produced as a visual anthropology experience, and part of the project The Last Survivors “Saving the Hutia and the Solenodon”.
Agouta / Hispaniolan solenodon also known as Juron or Solenodonte in Dominican Republic
This furry rabbit sized creature is from the genus Dasyprocta and can be found throughout the American tropics. The species found in Dominican Republic and Haiti is the Solenodon paradoxus.
This insect-eating mammal is quite similar to a mole as it feeds and moves around mostly in the darkness and at night. It has a long body, with a small or sometimes non-existent tail, and small ears. This burrowing animal weighs about 25 to 35 ounces at adulthood. Its long narrow feet have some very sharp claws. The teeth of this wiry, dark brown mammal are its most unique part. The teeth can inject venom into whatever it bites. This venom is injected through some small grooves that run down their small sharp teeth. They are the only mammals with this ability.
The Agouta is an ancient creature that survived the end of the dinosaur age. It also was one of the very few mammals that were able to live through the colonization of the islands. At one time they were about the only predators on the island. This indigenous creatures reproduction cycle is very slow. They are only able to get pregnant 1 or 2 times a year, making only a few babies in their litter each time. They are born in burrows and can remain with their mothers for several months, which is quite a long time as compared to other insect-eating creatures.
The Hispaniola or Haitian Solenodons’ numbers are dwindling rapidly. The colonizers of this island and the non-indigenous predators that include dogs and cats found this small insectivore to be quite tasty. Now with the massive deforestation happening here, especially in the east part of the island, the solenodons numbers are rapidly dwindling. This along with their inability to reproduce rapidly has made this species almost extinct placing it at #6 on the endangered species list (3/08).
The YouTube video above has information about the Hutia and the Solenodon – The Last Survivors
Pictures taken in the town of Barahona, Dominican Republic. They caught the solenodon and released it later. They said it had a very bad smell and was very mean and aggressive.
*As of April , 2008 the Dominican Zoo, Parque Zoológico Nacional Arq. Manuel Valverde Podestá República Dominicana in Santo Domingo has their first solenodon to show to the public. It was found in the El Sibao region of República Dominicana. This is one of the few in the world on display as it is so rare.
More about the Hispaniolan solenodon
The EDGE of Existence program aims to conserve the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species by implementing the research and conservation actions needed to secure their future. Check their web site to see what you can do to help. There is also more information on many endangered species of wonderful creatures of the world.
The Dominican Republic does have its share of spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites, centipedes and other nasty, ugly yet amazing creatures. They are not readily seen, especially in the cities, but in the country they can be plentiful. They are nocturnal and are rarely seen in the daylight.
I never really worried about them. They are not very aggressive. They can be frightening and they do like to crawl into houses at night. This can be a bit startling waking and seeing one of these creatures sitting on your pillow beside your head or rolling over on one in your sleep. The cacatas I saw were more anorexic than this picture but I was told by a friend that he saw one that was so huge, it was the size of a kitten, running around in a warehouse. I try and remember to check the inside of my shoes before putting them on when I am in the country.
When attacking a Cacata beware, they are crafty creatures. They jump and can play dead. When they do walk on your flesh they seem to almost stick to it. Many Dominicans that I have met think that if they do get bit by one of these hairy spiders they will surely die.
Continue learning about The Creatures of Dominican Republic – Page 2
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