His Feathered Friends

Without the help of a South Florida conservationist, the island of Dominica may bid farewell to its national bird

Not long after the parrot team meeting devolves into a happy-hour session stimulated by Kubuli beer and Red Cap rum, the Minister of Agriculture and the Environment, Peter Carbon, telephones. He is stopping by to pick Reillo up for dinner but offers no information as to what decision the cabinet made. Reillo frets as he finishes off a glass of rum and changes into his bureaucrat outfit of the previous day: olive-green slacks and loafers.

Over a late-night dinner with the minister and various other government bigwigs, Reillo gets the news he has been working for two years to hear: The cabinet has given its blessing to the park. "It's kind of like a dream," he says the next morning. "I'm thinking, What happened last night?"

Now Reillo must prove to the Dominican government that Rare Species actually has $750,000 to purchase the land. In the next few days essentially all of Rare Species' money will be deposited into one bank account to come up with the purchase price. "We're consolidating money from all over the planet," Reillo notes. "We're penniless."

Tony Sheets and Paul Reillo hoof it up the mountain
Paul Demko
Tony Sheets and Paul Reillo hoof it up the mountain

On the day before Halloween, Paul Reillo drives to Miami International Airport with a notary public in tow. Minister Carbon is flying from Brazil to Dominica, but has a stopover in South Florida. Reillo hopes to waylay him in the airport so that they can officially sign the contract for the land purchase, thus avoiding another trip to Dominica. A fax was sent to Carbon alerting him to the rendezvous, but it's unclear if the message was received.

Around 6:00 p.m., over dinner at the airport, the contracts are signed and notarized. A few bureaucratic formalities are all that remain in the way for Morne Diablotin National Park to be officially established. The park most likely will be announced next month and then drafted into the country's constitution by the end of January.

The national park will not necessarily ensure the reclusive sisserou's survival, but it will at least protect the bird from man and machine. Nature unfortunately is beyond the Dominican government's and Reillo's control.

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