- Wildlife of the Virgin Islands
Wildlife of the Virgin Islands
We’ve talked a lot this month about the Virgin Islands National Parks – after all, it’s part of what makes our islands so special! The VI National Park not only protects and preserves our beautiful islands, beaches and coastal waters, but it also serves as a platform for learning! There are some fun ways to experience the VI National Parks!
The Friends of the VI National Park (which we talk more about, here), offers a slew of seminars, hikes, coastal cleanups and events where you can get involved and learn more about the history, ecology, archaeology and more of our islands. Whether it’s a snorkel tour, a guided hike or a tropical ecology lecture and tour, there is something interesting and exciting for everyone. Through the Friends of the VI National Park seminar series, you can even learn how to make hot pepper sauce or shoot underwater photography! A few of our favorite upcoming activities can be found below, or check here for the full schedule of events.
The Beach to Beach Power Swim is also coming up in May, so sign up and find more information on the Friends website here. Get involved, learn something new and experience more of the VI!
The Donkeys were brought to St. John to be be used as a work horse. Thy would act as the beast of burden to carry supplies up the islands rough terrain and hills.
Once sugarcane was introduced to the Caribbean, donkey’s would help transport the cane to the mills for the processing of sugar and distillation of rum. On the arid, non growing islands, the donkeys would be used to in the blazing hot salt flats to carry the heavy mineral to the waiting ships for export to both the new and old worlds.
Now with tourism the main industry in the Caribbean, the donkeys have been left to the wild. They roam the islands freely, looking for their next meal and posing for vacation photos. A life much easier than that of their island ancestors.
Wikipedia states Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness, but this has been attributed to a much stronger sense of “self preservation” than exhibited by horses. Likely based on a stronger prey instinct and a weaker connection with man, it is considerably more difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it perceives to be dangerous for whatever reason. Once a person has earned their confidence they can be willing and companionable partners and very dependable in work.
Although formal studies of their behavior and cognition are rather limited, donkeys appear to be quite intelligent, cautious, friendly, playful, and eager to learn.The donkeys of St. John are loved and well taken care happy of by the community.
Here in the Virgin Islands we love our SEA TURTLES! The community has many programs and non-profit organizations advocating for our turtles so we like to think they love us back!
About Sea Turtles
- Common items include jellyfish, seaweed, crabs, shrimp, sponges, snails, algae and mollusk.
- Sea turtles spend most of their lives in the water, where not much information can be gathered on their behavior. Most of what is known about sea turtle behavior is obtained by observing hatchlings and females that leave the water to lay eggs. Sea turtles, like salmon, will return to the same nesting grounds at which they were born. When females come to the shore, they dig out a nest in the ground with their back flippers, bury their clutch of eggs and return to the ocean. After hatching, the young may take as long as a week to dig themselves out of the nest. They emerge at night, move toward the ocean and remain there, solitary, until it is time to mate.
- It is difficult to find population numbers for sea turtles because male and juvenile sea turtles do not return to shore once they hatch and reach the ocean, which makes it hard to keep track of them.
Sea Turtles of the Virgin Island
Friends of Virgin Islands National Park websites explains that two endangered sea turtles, the hawksbill and the green, are commonly seen in St. John’s waters. The hawksbill, shown here, comes ashore on remote St. John beaches to dig its nest and lay eggs. After burying the eggs in the warm sand, the female returns to offshore waters. When the youngsters hatch, they instinctively turn toward the sea. Despite laws protecting them in some countries, they are still hunted in some areas for their shells and meat.
Sea Turtle Information & Organizations
- The Sea Turtle Conservancy
- supports Sea Turtle Research and Conservation in the United States. The website has a ton of wonderful information, including a great Frequently Asked Questions About Sea Turtles section.
- They also have worked rehabilitating injured Sea Turtles and releasing them back into the Ocean with non invasive trackers. Would you like to see where these Turtles have been? Check out their live migration maps here!
Have you ever been to the Virgin Islands and spotted a Sea Turtle while snorkeling? Share your story with us below!
Coki Beach, St. Thomas USVI | Photo credit: Alison Hastings
The Fauna of the Virgin Islands is quite diverse–and that is another reason why living in the Virgin Islands is interesting! This month we are going to cover “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of wildlife. Although no wildlife is “ugly”, as they all serve their own purpose, there are definitely some little critters that I personally could live without (cough cough, mosquitos/spiders/snakes). However, I must say that the “critters list” is much shorter than I thought it would be before moving here. Here are some of the land animals of the Virgin Islands that can hang around me as long as they want.
Iguanas | Pronunciation: (ig-wah-na) Iguanas are a reptile native to the Caribbean, Madagascar, Fiji, Galapagos Islands and Tonga; various species exist. Baby iguanas are bright, almost florescent green while adults range from a dark green to brown and black. An adult iguana can get up to 6 feet long including the tail, which makes up about half of the iguana’s length. The iguana’s skin is rough and there are pointed scales on the back of the neck. Iguanas are often found high up in tree tops enjoying the sun and eating there favorite food; leaves. In the Virgin Islands you may see iguanas in the trees and bushes around your resort or scurrying across paved roads in forested areas. Some iguanas in resort areas will approach you as they may have gotten accustomed to being fed flowers, lettuce or leaves by staff and visitors. Although they may appear domesticated you should not corner or startle iguanas as they use their tail as a defensive whip.
Hermit crabs | have soft abdomens which require the protection of a shell. They do not make their own shell, therefore as they grow they must find larger shells to occupy. Their lives are spent searching for and occupying shells of other animals. The hermit crab in this picture is donning a whelk’s shell. Other crab species found in the Virgin Islands include the ghost crab that can be seen quickly moving along beaches and a few species of land crabs that burrow into the ground and can often be seen at night or just peering out of their holes in the day.
Lizards & Frogs | Lizards are a common site in the Virgin Islands. The largest lizard found in the U.S.V.I. is the iguana discussed above. Other species of lizards include the anole, a small lizard that eats insects and lives in trees and around rocks in forested areas of the islands. A visible indicator of male anoles is a red and green throat fan that it displays during courtship. Another lizard that you might see on the walls of outdoor restaurants or that might find its way into your villa or hotel room is the house gecko; also called a “woodslave”. The house gecko eats bugs and will often appear on walls and ceilings at night close to outdoor lights. Many insects are attracted to light making this location a prime spot for a feast. Frogs can also be seen in the islands but they are more often heard, particularly after a rain shower at night.
Mongoose | The mongoose is a carnivorous mammal. Native to South Asia and Africa, it was introduced in the Virgin Islands to control rat populations during plantation days. This did not occur. The mongoose hunts during the day and the rats come out at night. The mongoose’s introduction to the Virgin Islands was disastrous for the local bird and snake population. The mongoose eats other mammals, birds, and birds’ eggs. It is said to be the only animal fast enough to catch a cobra and live to tell about it.
Donkey | Wild donkeys are found on St. John. They are descendants of domestic donkeys that were released or escaped into the wild. They are usually in small groups of three to five. Although some of the donkeys are domesticated and friendly they should not be provoked or harassed. You may get kicked. You will find many donkeys in the Cinnamon Bay area of St. John and around Coral Bay.
Goat | Goats can be seen in small groups all over the islands in backyards, school yards, on some unpopulated islands or eating grass on the sides of roads. Goats can also be found in cooking pots. Goats are eaten as a special meal on local holidays and served at local restaurants. They are a common site on road sides in St. John, particularly in Coral Bay.
Deer | There is a small deer population in the Virgin Islands. The white tailed deer was brought to the islands by colonist in the late 1700’s for hunting purposes. They are a shy, solitary animal. Occasionally they are sighted in the National Park on St. John, in densely forested areas of St. Croix and on the East End of St. Thomas.
I hope you enjoyed learning about the wildlife in the Virgin Islands!
Until Next Time,