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Fauna & Flora International: Causeway to catastrophe for Saint Lucia’s endangered wildlife

By Fauna & Flora International

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Maria Islands

Maria Islands

PRESS RELEASE – Conservationists across the globe are expressing grave concerns about a proposed development in Saint Lucia that would mean certain extinction for some of the country’s most valuable wildlife.

The next phase of the so-called Pearl of the Caribbean Project poses a serious threat to the country’s ecological, cultural and archaeological heritage. Most alarming of all is the proposal to build a causeway linking the Maria Islands to the mainland,  a move that would have calamitous consequences for this offshore wildlife haven, which is officially a protected area.

Maria Islands Nature Reserve, one of only two Wildlife Reserves on Saint Lucia, is home to critical populations of six endemic Saint Lucian reptile species, including the world’s rarest snake – the Saint Lucia racer – which is found only on the island of Maria Major, and 90% of all remaining Saint Lucia whiptail lizards.

The reserve is the last refuge of an extraordinary community of native species that have been wiped out on the mainland by a combination of habitat loss (in part due to ill-advised development), persecution and invasive alien species.

The causeway proposed by the company Desert Star Holdings Caribbean Star (DSH) would undoubtedly be a bridge too far for the beleaguered snake and whiptail lizard – both of which are already on the brink of extinction and categorised as Critically Endangered by IUCN – and for the other offshore wildlife. It would literally pave the way for an invading army of rats, mongooses and other non-native predators, condemning the remaining reptile populations on the Maria Islands to the fate already suffered by their mainland counterparts.

To date, the sea has provided an effective barrier to these predators accessing the island. A causeway would remove that barrier.

The harmless, non-venomous Saint Lucia racer is so vanishingly rare that it was actually feared extinct. Hopes were revived following a painstaking search in 2011 and 2012 by a team comprising staff from the Saint Lucia National Trust, the Saint Lucia Forests and Land Resources Department, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Durrell), which located 11 snakes. However, with the entire global population now estimated at fewer than 20 individuals, it is clear that every individual matters if we are to save this species from extinction.

These same organisations are collaborating on a coordinated conservation programme to safeguard the future of Saint Lucia’s unique biodiversity and, in particular, the endemic reptiles confined to the Maria Islands. News of the proposed land bridge – which would destroy a delicately balanced ecosystem and scupper current efforts to save the Saint Lucia racer and the rare plants, lizards, seabirds and migratory birds that depend on this island sanctuary – was greeted with dismay by the conservation community.

The irony is that a misguided attempt to enhance the tourist experience is in danger of destroying the very natural heritage and beauty that attracts so many visitors and, in the process, jeopardising one of Saint Lucia’s most important sources of revenue.

“Managing this site is not a new-found interest for the Department,” said a Senior Forestry Officer at the Saint Lucia Forestry Department. “We and our partners, in-country and from overseas, have been actively managing this site to conserve Saint Lucia’s biodiversity for over three decades. The proposed causeway is simply not compatible with the need to keep these highly sensitive islands and their wildlife free from invasive alien species.”

Bishnu Tulsie, Director of Saint Lucia National Trust said, “We will do all in our power to ensure that these priceless and fragile assets are protected for the benefit of every Saint Lucian and for future generations. We call on all Saint Lucians who genuinely care about our heritage to support us in our conservation work and to ensure that Maria Islands and the Pointe Sable Environmental Protection Area are not destroyed.”

“Durrell has committed the last 30 years to supporting Saint Lucian partners to protect and restore their natural heritage,” said Matthew Morton, Eastern Caribbean Programme Manager for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. “The Maria Islands are a jewel in the natural crown for Saint Lucia and source of national pride. This causeway would spell the end for the Saint Lucia racer; it’s that simple.”

“Saint Lucia has long been respected as a leading light in conservation and sustainable development for its many great achievements, such as bringing the Saint Lucia parrot back from the brink of extinction,” said Dr Jenny Daltry, Senior Conservation Biologist at Fauna & Flora International, adding, “Why jeopardise the survival of unique wildlife and an admirable reputation for the sake of a non-essential causeway?”

(28)(9)
This article was posted in its entirety as received by stlucianewsonline.com. This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers.

27 comments

  1. Leave the islet alone they can develop all they want leave the islet alone.

    (5)(0)
  2. Stray dogs are going to Canada and we are fighting over a causeway. Wow wow wow.

    (1)(6)
  3. Stray dogs are going to Canada and we are fighting over a causeway. Wow.

    (0)(3)
  4. If this land grab (under the guise of investment), continues we will wake up to find that most Saint Lucians are in the ghettos and all the foreigners and investors will have our best land. We will feel like blacks under apartheid or like Palestinians under occupation.
    Then one day you will board a segregated bus with a sign in the back saying "Locals only" with the front seats reserved for investors and tourists.

    (8)(1)
  5. Develop the dam country.

    (25)(23)
  6. I believe in compromise. Things are hardly ever black or white and Dialogue can be established to find a better solution to this project where both environment of Maria and work opportunity are both satisfied. I personally believe connecting Maria is a mistake, not only for its fragile ecosystem, but also on a purely practical level, as a tourism experience/sale point ( argument to convince the non nature lovers... Or simply the indifferent ones). It is much more enticing an experience to approach a natural reserve with a guide by boat (even if just a small ride), to keep Maria as this little jewel preserved from the outer world, than to just simply drive or walk to it. I think I this would be a win win situation, it would benefit the project while giving a chance to Maria's ecosystem.

    (9)(2)
  7. I believe in compromise. Things are hardly ever black or white and Dialogue can be established to find a better solution to this project where both environment of Maria and work opportunity are both satisfied. I personally believe connecting Maria is a mistake, not only for its fragile ecosystem, but also on a purely practical level, as a tourism experience/sale point ( argument to convince the non nature lovers... Or simply the indifferent ones). It is much more enticing an experience to approach a natural reserve with a guide by boat (even if just a small ride), to keep Maria as this little jewel preserved from the outer world, than to just simply drive or walk to it. I think I this would be a win win situation, it would benefit the project while giving a chance to Maria's ecosystem.

    (4)(0)
  8. "Conservationists across the globe are expressing grave concerns..."

    --- Who are these conservationists from 'across the globe' that are referred to? One would have thought that the authors of this press release would have used the opportunity to bring credence to their cause by referring to some of these organizations. It is doubtful that they can back this up, and it is doubtful that the Maria Islands are even in the Top 150 world issues for global conservationists.

    “We and our partners, in-country and from overseas, have been actively managing this site to conserve Saint Lucia’s biodiversity for over three decades."

    --- Again, who are these overseas partners, and what have they been doing? Arguably, *nothing* in an active role, save an accept for some opinion pieces and announcements on the SLNT web site. To wit, the press release explains that the snake had been thought to be extinct for years - it obviously wasn't, so were they simply not visiting the island all that time other than for the purposes of perhaps the occasional academic elitist picnic?

    “Why jeopardise the survival of unique wildlife and an admirable reputation for the sake of a non-essential causeway?”

    --- Using Dr. Daltry's simplistically naive logic, she probably would have been quoted in 1970 as saying: “Why jeopardize the survival of the unique island ecosystem of St. Lucia for the sake of any non-essential development? We do not need water infrastructure, we have the rain that falls around us from the sky. We don't need hospitals, we have our bush medicine. We don't need banana farms or cane farms, we can grow enough just for what we need, no exports. We don't need hotels or improved port or airport facilities, we don't need tourists - we have our people, we have our breadfruit, we have our fish, we happy."
    --- It has been seen many times over in the world --- those that most criticize development are often the most hypocritical in their own personal lifestyles. Put another way, one might read the press release and think, as said by William Shakespeare, "Me thinks that she doth complain too much."

    --- Where were these Johnny-Come-Lately's during other development proposals? Now that the DSH project, their new public efforts seem to be a blatantly opportunistic, last minute and very selfish attempt to showboat for the media and justify work that they seemingly have not even been doing.

    --- Credible conservationists with global partners? Doubtful.

    (11)(37)
    • The Press release also makes mention of six endemic species on Maria Islet , but notice they can only mention two. Now someone​ needs to explain to me how does a causeway seriously endangers the Culture and archeology of St.lucia ? I have noticed that the trust chooses which government is in power to start criticizing developmental projects . Let it be clear that the National Trust is a custodial organization not a Development Control Authority .

      (8)(6)
      • "They" can name them all but it's a press release not a scientific article so naturally only the two most prominent species are mentioned. Same with all newspaper articles. If you're a local you should know them all, it's your/our heritage!

        (1)(0)
  9. The catastrophe lies outside the shores of Saint Lucia and no where else.

    Why must inhabitants of small nations must always be the ones in the forefront of protecting species for the global entertainment of a few annual visitors? It does not make any damn sense. It never has. What's in it for us the locals?

    Empty praise? You cannot take that to the supermarket, nor pay your VAT with that.

    Offer the species, all of them to the conservationists at no cost. Let those be their pride and joy. Boring! Wake be up when all this foolish talk is over.

    (36)(8)
  10. St. Lucia national Trust leave the politics out be honest and you will get more support. Certain people are tainting your cause and just hell bent not on genuinely protecting wild life and the envioronment but promoting a political agenda.

    (15)(14)
    • It is unfair to say that National Trust is being political. Because when the previous government was there they challenged them on both their Le Paradis thing and the Freedom Bay Hotel in Soufriere the same way! As long as somebody challenge something the government doing yall quick to say they political! Leave the people alone. They doing their job! You Lucians don't know what yall want. If they had not said anything they political, they say something they still considered political 🙁

      (1)(0)
  11. Where was Tulsie when historical houses and buildings were being torn down all over St Lucia over the past 2 decades. Where was he when Le Paridis was being built up and the fauna under pressure especially the rare bird.

    I and the majority of St Lucians have heard no great ideas from him or the Natkonal trust about our heritage. I could state 10 different ideas about our history that could be developed to create jobs from the Coaling Industry to the historical areas of Castriez to better development of pigeon island to our seafaring history and carib heritage.
    Another clown only interested in his pay packet and adherence to the wasteful socialist types bleeding out country.

    (22)(10)
    • It's more than a lack of ideas, the trust has had ideas but not enough money. Cuz we Lucian's don't support organisations like the trust. I really hate when ppl use someone's previous inaction as an excuse to say they shouldn't say something or try to make a difference. That's a mentality that we need to stop.

      A father my have not showed interest in their child's well being for 10 years then he "sees the light" should he not be given a second chance?

      Secondly have you been to every meeting the national trust has had? Do you know how many times they have not been or been in support of a development? Do you know how many development ideas they have presented to government or other organisations?

      I think persons are tired of politicians bulldozing things into place and it has reached a breaking point. Both parties are guilty of this, and honestly i see no good way forward for this country in this politically toxic environment.

      (4)(2)
    • Apparently you weren't paying attention when the Le Paradis stories were going on because Tulsie was always on my TV talking about the potential effects of Le Paradis and it was National Trust that pursued the case of the islet being sold as part of the ridiculous deal they made with the developers. If it wasn't for National Trust I would not have known that they sell the islet in it too!

      (1)(0)
  12. So a fool compares les paradis which was located just by the road as we say, to a causeway that will link maria islet. wow! the government should have made tertiary education a priority in that place maybe then our reasoning skills would not be so basic. By the way, I do agree that no causeway should be built to link maria islet to the mainland.

    (16)(11)
  13. How many police stations are on island as to the population of the country?

    (0)(1)
  14. We prefer to conserve poverty instead of development? What a lousy choice. Conservatism, capture the wildlife and place them elsewhere, in the world even. We will come to visit, if we make enough money to feed ourselves and have a little extra.

    (8)(23)
  15. This is just pure selling out, disgusting.

    (7)(9)
  16. Tulsie can go to hell. I am all for protecting the islets but to deprive me access to our beach is out of place.
    Get the barriers out and you have my support.

    (14)(7)
    • Huh. When I visited the beach no body prevented me from going on the beach. I saw the poles there but I heard on the news that National Trust put these things there to prevent people from driving on the beach because it damaging the place. And that makes sense because sometimes the fellas used to be driving and skidding all on the beach, leaving endless trenches with their wheels. Plus I hear they have turtles nesting there, all of that not good for the turtle eggs.

      But coming to think of it, we should really organise that turtle business there and start making some money on them. The have a couple beaches in Trinidad where villages making thousands of dollars a year on turtle watching every year. I went last time I was in Trinidad, an amazing experience!

      (1)(0)
  17. “Saint Lucia has long been respected as a leading light in conservation and sustainable development for its many great achievements, such as bringing the Saint Lucia parrot back from the brink of extinction,” said Dr Jenny Daltry, Senior Conservation Biologist at Fauna & Flora International, adding, “Why jeopardise the survival of unique wildlife and an admirable reputation for the sake of a non-essential causeway?”

    Where was that for Le Paradise? Bunch of devils. I am fully aware that in spite of the propose drawing of phase 2, the developer has not confirmed anything. La Paradise was done and not a work from the St Lucia Negative Thinkers.

    (32)(18)
    • It is quite clear that some of my fellow Saint Lucian people may indeed have selective amnesia. Is that even a legitimate diagnosis? Well, I don't know....i'll leave that to the neurologists amongst us. However, when the Le paradis development was being constructed I certainly remember reading about the many issues some of these organizations had with the project.....From the destruction of the white breasted thrasher's habitat to the possible contamination of the ocean with the run off from the project. I even remember having debates about these issues in school. I think what we fail to realize is that a lot of these issues are coming to light even more, now that there have been major advancements in technology and an increase in the popularity of social media. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT opposed to the DSH development. HOWEVER, I am opposed to the way the developers and OUR government are going about with this project with zero regard for the conservation of our natural patrimony. Saint Lucians, I beg you all to assess the two proposed phases of the DSH project in their entirety!!! .... does this project really need the Maria islands?

      (25)(5)
      • Did you say zero regards for conservation of our national patrimony? we use word too loosely. Be more specific. Wasn't the mangrove in the original plan taken into consideration, hence the change of the whole plan? I am for DSH but wish that the Islet is not touched. I will not say I do not care about the Lizards and the snakes. However, with the unemployment situation we have had in the south for years, I will NEVER agree to give the lizards and snakes priority over the people especially the youth. NEVER. I want the authority to come to VFort to asked the young people what would they prefer. As the original comment above stated

        (3)(4)
        • Yes, the mangrove was removed from the original plan after the SLNT and others spoke out against its inclusion, however, the lands surrounding the mangrove are still under the control of the developers. We cannot yet say how the waste waters from the animals will compound the problem of the dieback that already exists due to the presence of the hospital in the national stadium. So yes, I say zero regard!

          (4)(0)
          • Why don't they work on finishing le paradise instead ?? One is enough. All politics . Not in the interest of st. Lucia .

            (0)(0)

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