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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Alien Invasive Green Iguana; a Threat to Iyanola, St. Lucia’s Iguana

By: Jeanette Victor
Forestry Department

An iguana is an iguana is an iguana! Some say but that is not the case!
Although the invasive iguana located in the Soufriere area has similarities with our unique St. Lucia iguana found at the North East coast; there are marked differences. 

Similarities between St. Lucia Iguana and Alien Invasive Iguana
v  Both iguanas are known scientifically as Iguana iguana having the same local name The Green Iguana.
v  Their offspring are bright green.
v  They feed on the same umbrella vine known as lyenn dous.
v  Their defense mechanism is lashing their opponents with their long hard tail.
v  They both are tree lovers and are able to conceal themselves in the tress.
 v  The nesting period is from February to May.

Differences between the St. Lucia Iguana and Alien Invasive Iguana
Characteristics of the St. Lucia Iguana:
v  Found along the North East Coast of the island; Louvette and Grand Anse.
v  Adults are light green with predominant black stripes.
v   Adult males have a piece of black skin hanging from their neck which is called a dewlap that could be inflated to attract females during courtship.
v  The female lays 25 eggs in one clutch
v  Scales to the back of their head near the jawbone is smaller.
v  Their iris is white or cream

Characteristics of the Alien Invasive Iguana
v  Occupies the west coast (Soufriere) of the island and was brought to the island by individuals as pets from Canada.
v  Adults color remains the same bright green as the young ones.
v  Adult males have a bright orange dewlap.
v  Females lay more than 50 eggs in one clutch. Larger scales to the back of the jawbone.

Threats to our Native Iguana by the Invasive Alien Iguana?
Oh Yes! 
Here are a few of the threats that may arise
v  Loss of our unique iguana if it happens to cross- breed with the alien iguana.
v  Extinction of our native iguana through competition for habitat and food.
v  Future generations may be robbed of the history of our island never knowing our native iguana.

Let’s all play our part and educate one another to help in the eradication of this Alien Invasive Iguana before it’s too late!

Map showing location of Native and Alien Invasive Iguanas

Pigs Gone Wild; A Real Nuisance!!

By: Alwin Dornelly
Forestry Department

Feral or wild pigs (Sus scrofa) are described world-wide as one of the worst invasive species and are considered to be an enormous liability to natural ecosystems, biodiversity, agricultural production and human health. They compete directly with native fauna, and have even caused the extinction of some of those species.
Their omnivorous diet and their burrowing habits contributes to altering forest processes, reducing the growth of native plants, and consequently paving the way for the introduction of invasive plants. Feral pigs are especially attracted to waterlogged and riparian habitats, and so alter the structure and functioning of important water courses. Feral pigs also cause significant damage to agricultural crops and livestock, directly resulting in the loss of several million dollars in revenue to national economies.  Furthermore, they are known to act as vectors and reservoirs for a number of livestock and human diseases, both exotic and indigenous.

In Saint Lucia, the Forestry Department is growing increasingly concerned about the activities of feral pigs in the Government Forest Reserve and adjacent private lands. Several reports from the public and direct observations from department staff have shown that feral pig activities are increasing and causing damage to the natural vegetation and wildlife found within St. Lucia’s rainforest. Feral pig activity, seen near important water courses such as rivers and streams, may be contaminating our water sources.  The situation may be worsened by their reported presence on private lands and other areas adjacent to the Forest Reserve, significantly contributing to economic damage to private farms.
How did these pigs get into Saint Lucia’s forest in the first place?  Pigs are native to Europe and continental Asia, as far south and east as the Malaysian Peninsular, as well as to the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. It is generally believed that domestic pigs were introduced to the West Indies during the voyages of Christopher Columbus in the 1400s, and that there was a subsequent spread to other islands, which he did not visit. Pigs have been farmed in Saint Lucia ever since colonial times, right up to the present, where they have proliferated, escaped through negligence or otherwise, and in some cases have become pests. Many farmers have perhaps allowed their pigs to forage freely in adjacent areas and were not successful in re-capturing them. Some of those pigs strayed into the forest areas and over several generations have survived there.

The effort required to eradicate (completely remove) feral pigs may be too expensive. What is needed is a sustainable management method, where population size is kept at a minimum threshold minimizing the damage caused by wild pigs. The Forestry Department has been challenged in organizing the known pig hunters on the island into organized community groups and training them in newer methods of entrapment than the traditional method of using dogs and guns. Most hunters do not own a licensed gun. They mostly form hunting expeditions with someone who owns a licensed gun.

Any response by the Forestry Department at solving the problem must take on a strategic and coordinated approach and must involve all stakeholders. Efforts must be sustained over time through adequate funding, adequate monitoring, and actions taken must be evaluated. This will ensure that desired results are achieved.

The task is great but we must continue to forge ahead in order to mitigate the damage caused to our forest ecosystem, waterways and farms by these feral pigs!


Allena A. Joseph
Department of Fisheries

Colorful tropical fish are fun to watch in an aquarium or a home fish tank. But what happens when exotic fish are released into the wild?  Most often these fish survive and start taking over the sea. One such example is the Lionfish- an invasive alien species that may soon threaten our St Lucian waters as it comes down to our seas in ocean currents.

The Lionfish, known scientifically as Pterois volitans, is hard to miss with its red and white stripes and long venomous spines. This fish is native to the tropical Indian and Pacific region from Japan to Australia.  Officials and scientists believe that the lionfish was introduced into the Atlantic Ocean in 1992 after escaping from an aquarium in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Andrew.  Since then the Lionfish have made our Caribbean waters their home and confirmed sightings have been on the rise since 2004.

The Lionfish traveled to the Bahamas over ten years ago, but it was not until 2004 that reports of the sightings were confirmed. The number of Lionfish sighted has increased significantly as the population spreads across the Caribbean region. Lionfish have been observed all over the Bahamian archipelago, including the Turks and Caicos Islands. These alien fish have found their way to as far south as Bonaire where the first confirmed report was on October 26th 2009.  Since then, approximately 60 lionfish sightings have been reported in Bonaire.  Also increasing numbers of lionfish have been sighted in neighboring Dominica, St. Kitts Nevis, Antigua and more recently Martinique!

Lionfish are a threat to our already stressed marine ecosystem.  They have a BIG appetite and feed on all the fish found on our coral reefs. Lionfish are able to grow and reproduce faster than native species like our snapper or pot fish.  There are few fish that can eat the Lionfish; therefore their population keeps growing much faster than that of other fish.  Because of this, they can pose a serious threat to native fish, their habitat, coral reefs and overall ecosystem function. They feed on many of our important fish species.  They eat young snapper, grunt and grouper species, leaving none behind to reproduce to support the fishery that is important for food here in Saint Lucia.

Lionfish are also harmful to humans with its venomous spines and pose a threat to sea bathers, divers and fishers. The lionfish spines release a venomous sting that is fatal to its prey and can be very painful and dangerous to humans.  A lionfish sting is very unpleasant and can make a person quite sick.  Its painful sting can cause a wide range of symptoms from bellyache and swelling to chest pain and seizures.  If you or someone you know is stung by a lionfish there are steps you can take to reduce the effects of the sting.  

Once the Lionfish invades the marine environment they are here to stay.  There is no way to completely get rid of them from our waters. However, every Saint Lucian can play a part to help control this invasion by staying informed and following proper guidelines. Together we can protect our fisheries from the harmful effects of the lionfish.  Let us all do our part! And be prepared for the invasion.

One could say that it was just a matter of time till the invasive Pacific Lionfish was spotted in St. Lucia's waters. It was spotted at the Honeymoon Reef by a visitor on a dive with Sandals Dive Center   at the end of October and an official response on this serious Fisheries matter has been made by the Fisheries Department.

  If you spot a lionfish do not touch it.  Report ALL Lionfish sightings to the Department of Fisheries at telephone number (758) 468-4140/43 or the Marine Police at (758) 456- 3870 or the Soufriere Marine Management Association at (758) 459- 5500

Invasive Alien Species (IAS)

Article by: The Forestry Department

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB) 2009, “Invasive Alien Species (IAS) are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health”. Invasive alien species are introduced accidentally or intentionally by human or their activities.

Invasive species negatively impact on a country’s unique biodiversity by reducing species abundance and diversity and are capable of causing extinctions of native plants and animals by competing with native organisms for limited resources, forcing native species to decline in population or disappear from their natural environment. IAS tends to be highly adaptive and can live in a wide range of environments and they are also highly competitive and very successful at reproducing. IAS negatively impact on the resources that humans need for survival such as food, clean water and shelter; these species carry diseases and can directly harm humans and also impact the species humans depend on for livelihood such as farm animals and crops.

The spread of IAS is already creating a complex challenge that threatens the natural biological riches of the earth and the well being of our people. In the Caribbean for example, many of the unique plants and animals are amongst the most endangered in the world mainly because of the size of most of the islands which means that the total population size of these species are naturally small and make them especially vulnerable to any disturbance. While this problem is global, the nature and severity of the impacts on the society, economic life and health are unequally distributed across nations and regions and for this reason decision makers must give awareness raising and education regarding IAS high priority in their action plans.

There are a number of steps that can be taken depending on the invasive situation such as:

Prevention: such as keeping species out or exclusion by quarantine.

Eradication: once the species has reached the island, the next best option is to eradicate; this reduces the pest impact and the cost of managing the pest.

Containment or exclusion means preventing the pest from spreading out of or into a defined area. This can be used to keep important (but invasive) crop species from escaping from farmland, or to keep invasive from spreading into nature reserves or other natural areas.

Site-specific control means keeping the pest’s population below a certain level in defined areas, such as reserves or other natural areas.

Biological control means introducing a natural enemy of the pest, such as a predator or disease of it, to control its population; properly researched bio-control using carefully selected agents that attack only the target species and nothing else can sometimes bring serious pests under control without causing additional problems. 

Celebrate the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity (UNDB) 2011-2020

By: Anita James
Biodiversity Unit
Ministry of Agriculture

Japan hosted the 10th Conference of Parties (COP) Meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010 in October. It called on the COP to recommend to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to declare 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade of Biodiversity. This decision was passed at a resolution during the sixty fifth session of the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) in 2010.

Now you may be wondering why there is a need for a decade dedicated to biodiversity after there was a full twelve months in 2010?  The answer is simply that it was deemed that the rate of loss of biodiversity would have been reduced by 2010. However, that turned out not to be the case.  As a result, there is need to focus concerted effort on conserving biodiversity over a longer period of time. It is hoped that by implementing the strategic plan for biodiversity agreed upon at the COP in 2010, for the period 2011-2020, that that noble goal will be achieved.  It is felt that with such a decision taken at such a high political level to observe the decade of biodiversity, that countries would be more encouraged to implement the plan. The resolution asks The Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki Moon to lead the coordination of activities for the decade, on behalf of the UN system, with the support of the secretariat of the CBD and the secretariats of other biodiversity-related conventions and relevant UN funds, programmes and agencies.

The decade will seek to promote the involvement of a variety of national and intergovernmental actors and other stakeholders in the goal of integrating all relevant issues related to biodiversity into broader development planning and economic activities. No longer will biodiversity be expected to be a side issue. This will be done by ensuring that biodiversity concerns will be mainstreamed throughout government and all sectors of society, through communication, education and awareness, appropriate incentive measures and institutional change. Biodiversity will therefore cease to be a marginalized issue for many countries.  To achieve this goal, throughout the decade, countries that are party to the CBD will be encouraged to develop, implement and communicate the results of time-bound national strategies for implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, including interim milestones and reporting mechanisms on progress achieved. There will be close monitoring of the implementation of the strategic plan. Biodiversity must be taken down from the global and national level to the individual level for the decade to be effective.

In order for you and I to mainstream biodiversity in our lives, we must know what biodiversity means as far as, not just the variety of species that exist but also the variety of ecosystems and services provided for the well being of humankind by these systems. You and I must understand how our actions affect biodiversity locally and how the loss of biodiversity can severely impact our lives. You and I must be aware of the actions that we must take to help conserve biodiversity.  You and I must grab hold of opportunities to get familiar with the natural resources that Saint Lucia is blessed with, to help us better appreciate Saint Lucia’s biodiversity.

To help us best meet your needs where the above questions are concerned, we would be grateful if you would send in your comments and questions on this article to the YO magazine. In subsequent editions, we will attempt to answer your questions to help you make you and Saint Lucia proud, to meet the objectives of the decade of biodiversity.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kits for invasive species

Dear reader,

Some great resources have been created to help teach children about the problems caused by invasive species in Bugwood Blog. Also if you know about other resources please send them the information so they can share it with everyone.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Union Trail Interpretive Centre is reopen!

Dear all friends, visitors and students,

We have good news for you! The Union Trail Interpretive Centre is REOPEN.

You are very welcome to visit our Union Trail, Mini Zoo, Medicinal  Garden and Interpretive Centre just by a simple visit! In this centre you can learn many things about plant, wildlife, nature environment and others.

So come and visit us any day of the week from 8 to 4 if you wish!