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Plants and Animals


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Plants and Animals


The vegetation on the island varies greatly due to the large differences in altitude and different climate zones. The Dominican Republic has about 5,600 plant species (including 600 species of trees and 350 species of orchids), of which about 1,800 are found on the island alone. In the Parque Nacional Sierra de Baoruco, 166 different orchid species have been counted so far, almost half of all orchids growing in the country. Of these, 32 are endemic, meaning that they only occur in this specific park.

The mountainous regions still bear a dense jungle, while on the lower-lying parts a savannah-like vegetation (grass and low dry bushes) prevails. Through the actions of man, the own characteristic vegetation has changed a lot.

The Arowaks of South America cut down the existing vegetation and planted maize, tobacco and cassava, among other things. The Europeans cut down tree species that were not lucrative enough, and also to make agriculture and mining possible.

All kinds of plants and flowers were also brought to Hispaniola, such as sugar cane, banana, coconut and citrus fruits. Ornamental plants such as casuarina, clove tree and jacaranda were also imported by the colonists. One indigenous tree that has remained is the kapok tree or 'ceiba'.

Only in higher areas has the original vegetation remained largely intact. The Cordillera Central in particular is a paradise of flowers and plants with dozens of species of orchids, and also begonias, lobelias, bromeliads, tulip trees, coral trees and flamboyant trees.

There are 300 species of palms in the Dominican Republic, of which the king palm and the cacheo palm are special. From the latter a sweet wine, 'mabi', is obtained, while the population uses all parts of the king palm. Also noteworthy are the dwarf palms 'cana' and 'yarey'.

In the dry south and southwest, thorn bushes, acacias, agaves and 45 cactus species grow, 15 of which are endemic.

To protect nature, the Dominican Republic now has 14 national parks and 7 nature reserves.

In the Cordillera Central lies the Reserva Natural del Ébano Verde. The special feature of this reserve is its three types of vegetation: an ebony forest, a cloud palm forest and a mountain palm forest. In these three forests grow 600 species of plants of which one third are found exclusively on Hispaniola.



There are no large mammals on the island, except for domesticated animals such as horses, cows, goats and pigs.

The animal world has some notable species, such as a large insect eater like the Solenodon and a rodent like the hoetia or 'jutía'.

The mammals also include 18 native species of bat, one of which feeds only on fish from the sea.

Reptiles and ambiphibians

Reptiles and amphibians are plentiful, with the impressive pointed-nosed crocodile (up to 6 metres long) being the most notable animal. This animal can be seen especially near Lago Enriquillo on Isla Cabritos, Laguna Gri-Gri and in Monte Cristi National Park.

The iguanas, which mainly live in the drier areas, can reach a length of two metres. The rhino iguana, the smooth-tailed iguana and the ring-tailed iguana are indigenous.

Lizards and frogs are plentiful in the Dominican Republic, the largest snake being the Boa hispaniola, which does not exceed one metre in length. In total there are 20 species of snakes, all non-poisonous.

The hawksbill and loggerhead turtles are most common on the beaches of the Dominican Republic, particularly near Pedernales, on Isla Saona and near Monte Cristi. Leatherback and loggerhead turtles also lay their eggs on the beaches.

Sea Mammels

The West Indian manatee, or 'manatí', is in danger of extinction, making it a very remarkable sight. They are herbivores that live in the sea and estuaries. In the waters around the Dominican Republic, there are still about 100 manatees living in groups of three to twelve individuals.

During the winter months, a large group of humpback whales gather off the coast of the Samaná peninsula. Here, the humpbacks mate and give birth to their young. Humpback whales can reach a length of 19 metres and weigh around 48 tonnes.


The largest bird area is on the southwest side of the island near Pedernales and Barahona, especially in the Parque National Jaragua. Many birds stay here temporarily (about 118 species of migratory birds), and are on their way to the United States or South America, such as the American grey heron, yellow-rumped kites and rabbit owls. In the Parque Nacional del Este, 122 bird species have been counted, eight of which are found only on Hispaniola and another eleven only in the Caribbean.

Permanent residents are the Caribbean flamingo in the Laguna de Oviedo (largest flamingo colony in the country), and on the coast frigate birds, gulls, terns, brown boobies or gannets and brown pelicans. The American little egret can be found in lagoons, inland bays and the wet rice fields of the Cibao Valley and Vega Real.

In the forests, parrots (including the yellow-winged Amazon and the green parrot or 'la cotica'), parakeets, canaries, hummingbirds and woodpeckers can be found. The most common birds of prey are the long-tailed hawk and the vulture; the red-tailed buzzard is very rare.

The grey-bellied palmetto buzzard is the national bird of the Dominican Republic.

The rich bird world also includes the mountain lion, the bearded barred lion, the beautiful Haitian thrush, the spotted parakeet, the chiffchaff and the blue-headed oriole.

In the Parque Nacional Sierra de Baoruco, the rare white-faced crow can still be found.


Just in front of most of the sandy beaches lie coral reefs, and here live species such as parrotfish, angelfish, stonefish, doctor fish, groupers, snappers, tarpons, pipefish, moray eels, rays, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squid, crabs, crawfish and starfish. Further out in the sea swim manta rays, swordfish, tuna, dolphins and the harmless dogfish.

In the month of April, Boca Chica is the scene of an international fishing tournament. Blue marlin, the largest species of marlin, with a length of up to 460 cm and a weight of more than 400 kg, are fished.


Bayer, M. / Dominicaanse Republiek

Creed, A. / Dominican Republic
Chelsea House Publishers

Dominicaanse Republiek
Het Spectrum

Foley, E. / Dominican Republic
Times Books International

Froese, G. / Dominicaanse Republiek
Van Reemst

Langenbrinck, U. / Dominicaanse Republiek

Latzel, M. / Dominicaanse Republiek

Stow, L. K. / Dominicaanse Republiek

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info