PRESERVING THE CAVE ENVIRONMENT
In many areas of the Dominican Republic water is drawn from caves and in Bayahibe for example, all drinking water comes exclusively from the area's caves.
There is no other source of water so it is vital to keep these natural resources clean and free of contamination. In addition caves harbor a variety of wildlife, including many species of troglodytes (animals adapted to living in the complete darkness of a cave). These unique animals contain no pigment in their skin and lack eyes. Other cave dwellers include fish, crustaceans, crickets, salamanders and bats. Bats depend on caves to survive and play a crucial role in ecosystems worldwide, numerous species of plants and trees depend exclusively on bats for pollination and seed dissemination, without bats, seemingly unrelated surface eco systems would be in danger or disappear entirely. Caves also have beautiful and irreplaceable mineral formations, called stalactites and stalagmites, theses formations take thousands of years to form, if damaged they will take thousands of years to form again and in flooded caves they will never grow back. Unfortunately in the DR stalactites are sold in various tourist shops as souvenirs, and as a result caves are irreversibly damaged.
Cave conservation starts with education on what a cave is and why it is important to preserve them. We always take the time to talk to people everywhere we go about caves and how to protect them. It is an uphill battle in the DR to get people to understand the importance of caves, the cave environment and the importance of bats. However a simple grass roots effort has led to many caves being actively protected and cleaned of trash, this has been achieved over time by talking to people about what caves are and the importance of keeping caves clean and also by filming the caves we dive and showing people firsthand what lies beneath.
We must be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
• Do everything possible to protect the cave environment and cave wildlife.
• As cave divers always maintain proper buoyancy and never touch or damage any formations. Only dive caves that are within your abilities. A moment of carelessness, can ruin formations and sediment deposits that are thousands of years old.
• Do not collect anything from the cave and leave only bubbles behind.
• Pick up trash when possible and never leave any of your own.
• Always take the time to talk to people about the importance of cave conservation and set a good example for others to follow, show an interest and understanding of caves and demonstrate cave conservation in action.
• Leave all cave dwelling fauna alone and do not harass bats, they are harmless creatures vital to the cave and surface eco systems.
• Caves are not dark scary places and bats are not evil, caves are an important part of our natural habitat, caves are a fragile and beautiful environment and need your help to be protected.