Boven National Park - Photo by Robert Jan van Oosten
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Nature on St Eustatius

With a population of around 4,000 and land area of 21 km2, St Eustatius is remote, tiny and, as a consequence, not a mass tourist destination. Despite the fact that the island is easily overlooked, its natural heritage is rich and diverse making the island incredibly appealing for nature lovers.

St Eustatius boasts a range of unique, threatened and endangered habitats and species ranging from primary rain forest to magnificent coral reefs. The island is volcanic in origin with lush vegetation ranging from seagrapes and aloe in the coastal areas to ferns and mountain mahogany trees at altitude. There are coral reef bombs and fingers, patch reef and fringing reef and drop off spur and groove systems.

 


Typical flora and fauna

St Eustatius is a tropical island paradise with its own unique natural history, its own special ecosystems and habitats teeming with rare and exotic life. The Dutch Caribbean is home to more than 35 globally endangered or vulnerable species (according to IUCN’s red list), including trees, snakes, sea turtles, birds, whales and fish.

Amongst their natural wonders the islands count not only coral reefs but also seagrass beds, rain forests, cactus and woodlands. Without a shadow of a doubt the Dutch Caribbean constitutes the biodiversity hotspot within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. [go up]

Quill National Park eco-system

The forest filled volcanic crater of the Quill is spectacular. The crater contains a dense jungle of trees and plants rich in life which is classified as evergreen seasonal forest, a kind of forest closely related to true rain forest. The largest trees are the towering giant kapoks which have spectacular buttress roots. The crater drips with lianas and orchids, bromeliads and fern trees and is lavishly coated with mosses and ferns. Around the crater rim, there is a small but impressive primary cloud forest of which balsam trees with enormous aerial roots are the most conspicuous trees. [go up]

Rare species of the Quill National Park

Amongst the rare and endangered species which find a home on St Eustatius, is the red bellied racer snake, found only on St Eustatius and Saba, an endemic sub species of fruit eating bat and the endemic Saban anolis lizard.

Remnant populations of the endangered Lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima) have found a last refuge on six Caribbean islands including St Eustatius. These iguana have been hunted to the brink of extinction for their meat. Rare flora include 16 species of orchid, and the rare and endemic Statia Morning Glory which until recently was thought to be extinct. [go up]

Birds

The island is home to a wealth of birds especially seabirds. St Eustatius provides nesting sites for the Brown Pelican and roosting sites for the endangered Magnificent Frigate Bird.

Because of the abundance of steep, undeveloped coastal cliffs in the Boven sub-sector of the National Park, and lack of predators, St Eustatius is also a nesting site of the Red Billed Tropic bird. These magnificent seabirds spend over four years at sea, flying continuously, before returning to nest on the island from which they emerged as fledglings. [go up]

Marine environment

St Eustatius National Marine Park has been termed the ‘undiscovered diving secret of the Caribbean. Diving in the Marine Park is one of the top ten activities recommended by Fodor’s in 2006. The underwater scenery is dramatic. The network of beautiful patch reefs is one of the undiscovered natural wonders with exceptionally well preserved reefs, abundant stands of rare black coral, large numbers of fish as well as lobster and turtles, they are truly an underwater paradise.[go up]

Endangered species

Endangered species include three species of sea turtle, Queen Conch, coral species, cacti, orchids and more. Some of these species are mentioned below.[go up]

Queen Conch

Queen Conch can be found in the waters around the island. As the species is considered a local delicacy, conch have been overfished for many decades with the result that only remnant populations can be found in shallow waters.

St Eustatius conch population is much richer than elsewhere and recent studies have shown that fishing is still sustainable at current levels. Park regulations include a ban of the taking of sub adults and regulation of maximum fishing effort to ensure a sustainable harvest.
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Turtles

Endangered sea turtles, which have survived in our seas since the time of the dinosaurs, are found resident in St Eustatius National Marine Park and still nest on the protected beaches of St Eustatius.

Nesting beaches are regularly monitored and protected through a monitoring programme that commenced in 2002. In addition to providing outreach materials, activities and presentations for local schools and visiting tourists, the Park monitors beaches for nesting activity on a daily/nightly basis during nesting season. Most recently, satellite tracking devices have been placed on hawksbill and green turtles to track their movements and discover where they go after they have finished nesting. [go up]