(PRESS RELEASE) - The Forests and Lands Resources Division is concerned over the frequent occurrences of unauthorized public and private activities on our offshore islands (i.e. Maria, Praslin, Dennery and Rat Islets). In recent times, there has been a spate of unauthorized beach picnics and other entertainment activities on especially Praslin Islet and Rat Islet on public holidays and holiday weekends in particular. These unauthorized events are not appropriate for such vulnerable habitats and have the potential to destroy the protected species of wildlife found only in such fragile ecosystems. The offshore islands are the last remaining sanctuaries for a number of our endemic reptiles including the Saint Lucia whiptail lizard-Zando-which is a fairly large, active ground lizard with adult males bearing the colours of the Saint Lucia flag and the Saint Lucia Racer which is one of the rarest non-venomous snakes in the world. Maria Major, off the coast of Sandy Beach in Vieux Fort, is the only habitat in the world for the Saint Lucia Racer. Additionally, our offshore islands constitute a major breeding ground for large colonies of both resident and migratory bird species. Over the past twenty three (23) years, the Forestry Division in partnership with the Saint Lucia National Trust, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Fauna and Flora International, have invested a considerable amount of time and resources to ensure the protection and preservation of these rare and threatened species of wildlife. Additionally, rigorous bio-security protocols have been enforced in an effort to prevent the incursion of invasive alien species and predators such as rats, mongooses and others, and also to avoid littering and the setting of fires on these offshore islands. The Forests and Lands Resources Division by virtue of the Saint Lucia Wildlife Protection Act, Chapter 6.03 of 1980 (revised 2001), is charged with the legal mandate to manage, protect and preserve wildlife and their habitat in St. Lucia. As it relates to the offshore islands, the following management decisions have been established in an effort to protect those vulnerable natural habitats and to maintain the enabling environment for the growth and development of the wildlife found there: - Ensure that all offshore islands, constituting the habitat of protected wildlife, are kept free of rats, mongooses, cane toads and other alien species of both fauna and flora. - Ensure that the bio-security protocols are executed on every visit to the offshore islands in an effort to maintain the pristine nature of the habitat and to prevent the incursion of invasive alien species - Ensure that the carrying capacity of each offshore island is not compromised by visitors, at any given time, in order to maintain the integrity of these vulnerable offshore island habitats. - Refrain from littering and setting of fires on the offshore islands - Refrain from feeding the wildlife in their natural habitat, particularly the Saint Lucia whiptail lizards on Praslin Island. - Do not persecute or kill any wildlife found on the offshore islands, especially the Saint Lucia whiptail lizards and the Saint Lucia Racer. Therefore, the Forests and Lands Resources Division wishes to inform the general public of the aforementioned protocols for visits to our offshore islands and would also like to advise the public to seek permission from the Forests and Lands Resources Division and the Saint Lucia National Trust before venturing onto these offshore islands. Furthermore, the Forests and Lands Resources Division wishes to emphasize that all paid, profit driven entertainment events or any mass crowd events are strictly prohibited on the offshore islands due to the extremely vulnerable and sensitive nature of such habitats. The Forests and Lands Resources Division solicits the support and collaboration of the general public in demonstrating national pride and to assist in the conservation efforts to preserve and protect our unique and endangered wildlife.