The Zari Gallery is home to ‘Quisqueya La Bella: Fauna, Flora and Landscape of the Dominican Republic‘, Eladio Fernández’s outstanding photographic exhibition on the biodiversity of the island.

The exhibition, which will run from 9th to 24th June, displays the inimitable diversity of the country, and takes its name from ‘Quisqueya’, Taíno for the island of Hispaniola, which is divided up into Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Younger islands such as the Galápagos and the Hawaiian Islands cannot match Quisqueya for its sheer diversity, and Mr Fernández’s exhibition encapsulates this wonderful variety in his photographs.

Federico Cuello Camilo, Dominican Republic ambassador to UK, opened the exhibition with the following words:

“It’s a pleasure to have you here. All of these photographs demonstrate endemic species of the Dominican Republic. All of them are in danger, but have survived as we have a policy of protecting nature parks and marine spaces. The biodiversity in the Dominican Republic is a treasure; we are talking about 7,000 species.”

It is the amazing 40% forest coverage that shelters such an array of species, and places the country in the top ten GEF biodiversity index among archipelagic states. There are no less than 119 protected areas in the country, covering over two fifths of the land mass. The government is helped by private land owners, some of whom have set aside some of their own land as part of the scheme.

Ambassador Cuello explained that water played a key role in protecting the level of biodiversity in the Dominican Republic:

“By protecting watersheds to ensure availability of water for our power dams and our extensive network of irrigation canals, our biodiversity has been preserved as well, ensuring a sustainable pattern of economic development.”

Keen readers of environmental magazines might recognise Mr Fernández’s work from a number of high profile publications he has contributed to, including Living Bird, Condor, National Geographic and Nature Conservancy.

Professor Frank Moya Pons, former environmental minister and top historian of his generation, said:

“This exhibition makes me think back to Christopher Columbus, because he was the first European to note the richness of the biodiversity of this Caribbean island in his journal.”

While the exhibition is seen as a record of great national importance to the Dominican Republic, it has also been set up with the aim of boosting tourism in the country, as it is hoped viewers will see the biodiversity as another reason to book their holidays on the island.

Among the brilliant range of species on display in the exhibition are everything from magnolias to whales, Dominican iguanas, and the Solenodon, which is considered to be the oldest mammal on earth.

Mr Fernández has a richly diverse background himself, being an associate fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers and treasurer of the board of Fondo Peregrino RD. Aside from these roles, he is also a naturalist, author, and editor of photography and illustrated children’s books, as well as being a conservation adviser for Fundacion Propa-gas.

Concluding why visitors should come to see the exhibition, Ambassador Cuello said:

“Eladio’s photography is a most enticing invitation. Our biodiversity is a resource in itself. It needs to be cherished by all if it is to endure. Come and enjoy sustainably our natural resources: it should prove to be the best incentive for preserving our ecosystems now and forever”.

One of the most famous areas for biodiversity is the La Caleta National Marine Park, which has led the way for sustainability, promoting dive tourism as an alternative income to fishing for the local town. Some marine life, such as lobsters, are not considered to be in danger, and fishermen have been encouraged to focus their efforts on these kind of species. As a result, several lobster houses have sprung up near the park. However, there is a battle against the illegal timber trade, and the threat from over development, which means the drive for sustaining the biodiversity will continue.