The Cockpit Country is an unspoilt inland area of Jamaica whose unique physical location has allowed a high biodiversity of flora and fauna to develop and thrive. In fact, the Jamaican Government has designated a portion of the Cockpit Country as a national forest reserve in an effort to help protect and preserve the large numbers of endemic flora and fauna that are indigenous to the region.
Significant areas of undisturbed wet limestone forest house a rich cornucopia of native plants, including; the Madame Fate or Horse Poison, a poisonous plant, with bright green leaves and a star shaped white flower; the Fresh Cut, which is used to relieve colds; and the Dog Tongue, whose name refers to the fact that its leaves are shaped like a dog’s tongue, and which has medicinal properties effective for healing open wounds.
Prominent animal species include land snails, grapsid crabs, amphibians, reptiles, land birds, and mammals.
A significant portion of the Cockpit Country is recognized as an endangered hotspot within a hotspot – both for the number of species whose global ranges are restricted entirely to the region and for the number for which the Cockpit Country represents a major proportion of their total world population. New species continue to be discovered regularly, which is a testament to the significance of the Cockpit’s ongoing conservation.
At least eight endemic species have been expunged in Jamaica in the last two hundred years: the Giant Galliwasp, the Giant Gecko, the Racer, the Petrel, the Parauque, the Red Macaw, the Green-and-yellow Macaw and the Jamaican Rice Rat. With the exception of the macaws, which may have been hunted to extinction, the small Indian mongoose – introduced in 1872 – is believed to be responsible for the other species’ extinctions.
As a measure to protect the estimated thirty species that are threatened by extinction within the next one hundred years, the Cockpit Country represents an important and vital sanctuary for their survival.
The Cockpit Country is made up of several distinct communities, each of which offers a unique window onto Jamaican culture. Some of the main regions include, Accompong, Flagstaff, Windsor, Wait-A-Bit/Litchfield, and Sherwood Content. Many of these centers are located close to the Cockpit interior, while others can be reached via a 2-3 hour drive.
Ceramic potter Garfield Williams studied at West Humber Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada, before returning to Jamaica in early 2000. Originally from Balaclava, St. Elizabeth, Williams began making drawings and [...]