The saving of the Saint Lucia parrot – whose numbers were once as low as 100 – is a Saint Lucia success story. The island’s only parrot – which also happens to be one of its five endemic species – has gone from being hunted to being a national hero, the national bird and a tourist draw. But many endangered species inhabit Saint Lucia’s forests and surrounding ocean, and their survival will be due to both local awareness campaigns as well as responsible tourism.
One example is the sea turtle. Green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles nest annually on Saint Lucia’s shores, their tiny hatchlings emerging weeks later. Illegal sand mining, the poaching of eggs and of the turtles themselves and being accidentally caught in or injured by fishing nets all threaten these creatures, but the fantastic work of committed conservation groups created in collaboration with the Saint Lucia National Trust
is ensuring a safer future. During the 2014 nesting season, Grande Anse Sea Turtle Conservation Network
(also known as Des Barras Sea Turtle Watch Project) ensured that no turtles or eggs were poached, and sand mining was drastically reduced.* They raise awareness in local schools and communities, and campaign for harsher penalties on those found to be breaking the law. They also organise nightly patrols to watch over the nesting leatherbacks in the Grande Anse Marine Reserve.
Further inland, there are a number of reserves which protect Saint Lucia’s rainforests and mountains. Edmund and Quilesse Forest Reserves protect thousands of acres of tropical rainforest and are managed by the forestry department, who can issue trekking permits and assign expert local guides. The Millet Bird Sanctuary shelters all five of Saint Lucia’s endemic bird species; all of these protected areas offer walks of varying lengths and difficulty, and the chance to learn about endemic plants and their medicinal uses.
Offshore, the Maria Islands Nature Reserve protects two tiny islands with their endemic reptiles and nesting birds – plus the surrounding reefs. Local fishermen take visitors and guides to the island for fascinating day tours.
*Source: Saint Lucia Times
What you can do
Visiting any of the reserves or sanctuaries listed above provides income to fund rangers, research and management of these protected areas. Doing so with a local guide also supports local naturalists – and demonstrates the value of nature-based tourism.
Take a step further by donating money to one of the sea turtle conservation initiatives – or take a sea turtle tour with accredited guides, and your money will go back into the initiatives that are helping to protect these creatures. Alternatively, volunteer on the night patrols – counting eggs, marking nests, measuring the turtles and deterring poachers.