5 Dominican Animals You Should Know About
We can’t say enough good things about Dominican Wildlife. The whole country is considered a biodiversity hotspot and has an enormous ecological variety, ranging from mangrove forests to mountains to coral reefs. And, as the country has made 25% of its landmass and shores protected area, this is likely to remain.
So, it’s no surprise that the Dominican Republic is filled to the brim with unique, interesting wildlife. Ranging from beautiful to horrifying to just intriguing, these are creatures you’ll want to take the time to see if you get the chance.
While there are too many critters in the Dominican Republic for us to list all of them, we have listed some of the most interesting below.
The Jaragua Dwarf Gecko
Also called Sphaerodactylus ariasae, the Jaragua Dwarf Gecko is one of the world’s smallest reptiles. It measures about 17 millimeters or just over half an inch, meaning that it can fit on a United States quarter with room to spare. For the most part, the Jaragua Dwarf Gecko is limited to Jaragua National Park in on the southwestern edge of the country.
Due to its rarity, not much is known about its habits.
Also called the Haitian Solenodon or the “agouta,” this critter is an endangered mammal found throughout the island that the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti. It has a smaller cousin that went extinct soon after Europeans arrived.
The Hispaniolan Solenodon looks a little like a giant shrew, with a long, slender body, a snout-nose, a large head in comparison with its body, and a rat-like tail. They range from one to two feet in length, and are generally a dusky brown colored. They have very strong forelegs which they use to dig, and live in burrows, trees, or other places they can hide from view.
Most interestingly, they’re nocturnal and often move in zig-zag motions to avoid being caught by a suddenly appearing predator.
This guy is big.
Larger specimens can get as big as 136 centimeters from snout to tail. For those using English measurements, that comes out to 4.5 feet. That’s a big lizard.
Like the Hispaniolan Solenodon, this critter is located throughout the island, not just the Dominican Republic. They’re generally a steel gray or brown color, and they get their name from the rhinoceros-like, bony-plated horn at the end of their snout. Outside of that, they look mostly like an oversized iguana, though researchers are still trying to figure out exactly how they evolved that horn.
Despite its size, the rhinoceros iguana is herbivorous, with a diet comprised mostly of berries and fruits. Efforts were made in the early 1990’s to increase their population, and there are currently plans to reintroduce the species into the Samana Peninsula.
Hispaniolan Giant Tarantula
This tarantula is native to the Dominican Republic, but appears elsewhere. The Dominican Republic has its own name for the guy, though; the Cacata.
These spiders get up to seven inches long, and their fangs alone can grow to a formidable two centimeters. Unlike many tarantulas, they don’t make a habit of hiding, and are apt to chase their food down. Their bite, however, is not harmful to humans. Due to this, their size, and their color, they make common pets.
But they’re also known for their most dangerous predator; the pepsis wasp, known locally as the Matacacata, literally meaning “Tarantula Killer.” This is a huge wasp that will dig into the spiders burrow to capture it, sting it, and lay its eggs in the abdomen, where the babies will hatch and feed on the paralyzed tarantula.
This is a critically endangered hawk only found in the Dominican Republic. In fact, at 80-120 pairs, it’s considered one of the two most threatened birds on the island.
Deforestation hurt the population, but it was also persecuted by farmers who believed that the hawk preyed upon their chickens. This claim seems unlikely, however, as despite its varied prey base, reptiles (including lizards and snakes) make up about 90% of their diet.
This hawk is compact, but medium sized, averaging about 38 centimeters long. It’s known for its greyish, barred tail and underparts and reddish wash. They’re known to pick high trees to nest in during spring, and will sometimes eat small mammals and birds.
The Dominican Republic is making great strides to conserve its wildlife, and it’s easy to see why. So, when you visit, make sure to keep an eye out for these critters!
Written by Connor Johnson
Connor Johnson is a flexible content and copy writer located in the Boston area. He supplements his writing with in-depth research and general marketing skills. He can be contacted here.