Blacktip Island’s Department of Public Health has made it’s newly-created reflecting pool the centerpiece of it’s wildlife eco-tours through the small Caribbean island’s garbage dump.
Blacktip Island’s cash-strapped Department of Public Health began offering guided tours of the island’s dump Thursday to showcase the site’s biodiversity and value to the community.
“Locals’ve been coming here for years for spare parts and what have you,” DPH chief Clete Horn said. “We noticed more and more tourists stopping by for a look, too. That was our ‘a-ha moment.’”
“Folks come to Blacktip from all over the world, and spend thousand to look at fish,” Horn said. “Well, there’s just as many critters above the water, especially at the dump. Our safaris’ll spotlight that, and the fees’ll cover payroll and dump upkeep.”
Local wildlife experts say the idea isn’t as outlandish as it sounds.
“There is a great deal of biodiversity at the landfill,” Island Wildlife Research Center chief Goby Graysby said. “That’s where the food and water is, so that’s where the wildlife is.
“People laugh about glowing dump chickens, but the place is home to rats, feral cats, land crabs, even iguanas,” Graysby said. “That’s the Big Five, and the way those DPH guys know the terrain, they’ll get you and your Nikon right in the feeding frenzy. It’s brilliant, really.”
Safari guests will tour in the health department’s refuse collection vehicles.
“End of the day, we hose the trucks out real good, put plywood viewing platform in the back and take folks through all the honey holes,” Horn said. “It adds realism. Plus, the critters here are used to the trucks, so they don’t run.
“The highlight’s the reflecting pool,” Horn said. “There’s nothing quite like coming around those scrap-metal mountains, seeing the sunset across the water and the feral cats and chickens drinking together in peace. You should hear all the ‘ooh’s and ‘ah’s and ‘Oh, it’s just like in The Jungle Book.’”
Some Blacktip residents, though, worry the tours are changing the island.
“Used to be, we could make a day of a dump trip. It was family time,” said resident Paloma Fairlead. “We’d bring a picnic, let the kids play hide-and-seek and chase the chickens. And the little ones so loved to pick out some castaway treasure for themselves.
“Now we have to pay for admission, and you can’t take anything without paying,” Fairlead said. “And once you’re in, you can’t get out without going through the gift shop. I never thought Blacktip would turn so crass and commercial.”
Others, though, have embraced the eco tours.
“This shows the dump’s not just good for the community, it’s good for the environment,” island mayor Jack Cobia said. “The dump is the future, the new island order. And these ‘Blacktip Island Dump Safari’ t-shirts are so comfortable.”