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Thursday, May 24, 2012

New birds flying in the Union Interpretive Centre

Photographed & written by Te-Hsin Tsai
Taiwan ICDF Volunteer in the Forestry Department
        The Forestry Department invited students from the Sir Ira Simmons Secondary School joined with environmental education project to design and make bird models for the Union Mini Zoo Interpretation Centre. The duration of this project was 10 weeks from January to March 2012. During this time students from the environmental club and visual art class not only made bird models but were exposed to different environmental issues, such as climate change, water conservation concepts, and natural knowledge of birds and the forest. As a result, the students are now appreciative of the natural environment.

        Both teachers and students from the Sir Ira Simmons Secondary School mentioned that making 3D bird models was very challenging but interesting. During the making process, students studied the pictures and information on birds to get proper descriptive features on the models and understand their habitual behavior.

        To highlight the student’s achievements, the Forestry Department held a grand ceremony at the Union interpretive Centre last month. On this warm and joyful occasion, students handed over their masterpieces and displayed them together with the officers in the centre for everyone’s enjoyment.

        This Environmental Education Activity was a joint venture with the program director from Caribbean Student Environmental Alliance (Caribbean SEA) and the volunteers from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), US Peace Corps and Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund (Taiwan ICDF). From January to March 2012, these project partners together with Forest officers have been working closely together with these students.

        The Forestry Department would like to thank the students, teachers and working partners who invested a lot of time and effort towards the completion of this project. Moreover, the Department welcomes visitors to the Union Interpretive Centre any working day from 8am to 4pm to enjoy the students’ creative arts. Through these and other activities the Forestry Department continues to meet the challenge of educating the public of the need for the conservation and sustainable management of our country’s natural resources.

New idea? New Project?

If you have any good ideas about environmental education, please contact The Forestry Department EE Unit at 468-5645/8. Your brilliant idea might be the next great environmental education project!

Sharing Nature; a tour guide’s experience

Article by Christele Albert
Photos © Te-Hsin Tsai

Hi, I am Christele and I have been a tour guide for over 14 years attached to the Forestry Department and I can say it has been a great experience; especially since I have the opportunity of meeting new people every day and interacting with them. Being a tour guide is fun for I have learnt a lot like speaking different languages such as German, French and a little Spanish.

 As a tour guide, walking through the Tropical rainforest makes me feel contented. I have the privilege on enjoying the sounds of the different birds like Bullfinches, Banana quits, Grackles , Zanaida doves and others. Also, the fresh cool breeze is very rejuvenating along with the spectacular fragrances coming from the different  trees such as Gomier, Lansan and  Caribbean pines just to mention a few.

I love my job, it’s the bomb as some would say because it doesn’t just entail walking the forest trail but also the selling of souvenirs to visitors for them to take back home; example bird cards, posters, post cards and lots more. I am happy to think that they are taking a piece of St. Lucia back home with them and attached to these souvenirs are fond memories of which I am a part.

 There is also an interpretation center where one can find good information where also many schools would come to view puppet shows on the many environmental issues we are challenged with today.This includes all types of schools; pre-schools, primary, secondary, and colleges.  There at the Forestry Department you can find a beautiful dry forest along with the Medicinal Garden and amazingly the only zoo found in St Lucia where one has an opportunity to see the national bird of St Lucia (Amazona versicolor) and some exotic animals like the Macaw parrots, green monkeys and more.

I am elated to have shared my experience with you and I hope to continue sharing the beauty of nature with all those who visit. Don’t forget when you visit the forest to take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.

Lansan (incense), a possible lucrative Industry

Article By: Nicole La Force
Lansan or incense (Protium attenuatum) is and was a highly prized commodity and has long been used in our society; in blessing, as an insect repellant and even for medicinal purposes as in the relief of sinus congestion and arthritis.
Unfortunately lansan is being illegally harvested and as many of the harvesters are opportunistic their manner of harvesting is such that causes severe to fatal injury to the trees. Often times the trees back is indiscriminately slashed and this so far has caused death of hundreds of trees. Sustainable Management of this flagship species is therefore necessary.

Lansan is endemic to the Lesser Antilles and is found in Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and has been heavily depleted and is believed to be under threat.  In fact it appears that St. Lucia has the largest remaining population of lansan in the Lesser Antilles. A survey is soon to be carried out to determine its IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) status.

 An experiment was carried out to determine the best method of harvesting which would produce increased yields while minimizing any detrimental effects to the trees. A series of 7 different cuts were made where some were sprayed with a 5 % concentration of sulphuric acid and others not. Four diametric classes were used from 15 cm to >30cm. The experiment sites were Barre de L’isle and Chassin. Lansan was collected every two weeks and new cuts were made at that time no deeper than the cambium layer.

Funding for this project was provided by Flora and Fauna International, in collaboration with the Global Tree Campaign and The Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Forestry.

 This is done with the aim of protecting the species from extinction while continuing to provide a sustainable livelihood activity. This project began in 2009 and it is hoped that with further studies and continued conclusive data a sustainable harvesting method will be adopted by all harvesters ensuring that everyone gets piece of the pie now and in the future. 

The preliminary results of the lansan project are as follows:
¨ There’s increased production of  resin (lansan) when sulphuric acid is added to the cuts.

¨ The effects of the sulphuric acid on tree health and growth is yet to be determined, though there does not seem to be any negative effects thus far.

¨ The effects of the sulphuric acid on human health is not known.

¨ Recommendations were made for testing of the lansan to determine it’s quality although feed back received from various priests who have used some of the lansan harvested are reported as saying the quality is very good and even better than some imported lansan which they occasionally use.

Market and consumer research is currently ongoing via surveys of market vendors who sell lansan.

Now the cooperation of harvesters, buyers, traders and law enforcement officers is needed for the success and continuity of an organized co- managed industry.

St. Lucia’s Herbarium

Article by:  Nicole La Force

Plants have an enormous impact on our lives. They are the planets primary producers of food; they constitute a major part of our forest and are important sources of medicines, building materials, and fibers for manufacture of paper. Many plants have aesthetic value as ornamentals thereby improving the quality of our lives.

A herbarium is a collection of preserved plants; stored, catalogued, and arranged systematically to be used as a reference collection for studies in taxonomy, natural history, ecology, genetics, pharmacology, molecular biology etc. Herbarium collections are central in providing the basis for our understanding of biodiversity. They document the flora of a region and provide crucial data on the variation and distribution of particular plant groups.

Such a collection is a vital reference when you need to identify a plant and also serves to fix forever the identity of thousands of plant names. A herbarium in itself is like a museum, a warehouse of birth certificates for plants and acts as a source of information about plants; where they are found, what chemicals they have in them, when they flower, what they look like etc.  Preserved plant specimens can be used to provide samples of DNA and to validate scientific observations. A herbarium is therefore of immense practical use and of fundamental importance to science.

Individual plants or parts of plants, are preserved, stored and cared for over time so that current and future generations can identify plants, study biodiversity and use the collection in support of conservation, ecology and sustainable development.

The herbarium found at the Forestry Department is one of a kind in St. Lucia and has catalogued a little over 5200 plants and the work continues. Ultimately the goal is to catalogue all the plant species on the island. It is estimated that probably 90% has been collected.  The collection and Identification of these plants has been a labor of love and a collaborative effort on the part of many individuals. Sad to say, a few of the catalogued species are thought to be extinct since they have not been encountered in the wild of their recorded locations for some time now.

The specimens are mounted on herbarium mounting sheets with labels attached stating; date, location, GPS point, habitat, plants habit or description and collector’(s) name(s).  They are later filed alphabetically in special cabinets in cool temperatures according to genus, family and specie.

The mounted specimen must contain the fruit and or flower, leaves and in the case of grasses the roots must definitely be included. This ensures proper identification. The paper used for mounting and labels are chemical free so as not to react in any way with the specimen. Plants properly preserved in a herbarium can last hundreds of years.

The earliest herbariums were used as references by physicians who prepared many of their medicines directly from plants and were usually portable. 

Did You Know?
  • The oldest herbaria are in Kasses, Germany founded in 1569, and Bologna, Italy founded in 1570.
  • The world's herbaria hold over 273 million specimens in more than 2600 herbaria in 147 countries.
  • The largest herbarium in the world, the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris, France, holds 8.9 million specimens. Wow!
Want to learn more about St. Lucia’s plants? Visit Roger Graveson’s website @ a gentleman who has contributed greatly to our existing herbarium.


Article by: The Forestry Department

What is CITES?
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The CITES convention came into force on July 1, 1975 and St. Lucia ratified this convention in 1982. Although St. Lucia is not significantly involved in wildlife trade we recognize the need to play our part in the global effort towards wildlife conservation.

Why is CITES Necessary?
Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, medicines etc.

Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.

Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.

St. Lucia as a member of CITES is obliged to not only monitor exports of its local species and the subsequent impacts on their populations, but must also monitor imports to ensure that wildlife entering the country have been legally obtained and collected in a way that does not threaten wild populations in the country of origin.

How does CITES work?
Every two years member countries of the convention come together to review the conservation status of wild plants and animals. This is called the conference of parties (COP). Where species are considered to be at potential risk of decline or extinction due to international trade a system of licensing is introduced to help monitor, regulate or temporarily halt trade. This licensing system remains in effect until the risk or threat to the species is no more.

Species at risk are placed into three (3) categories called appendices and differ according to the level of protection that the species is considered to require.

Appendix I: include species that are locally or globally classified as “endangered” or at “risk of extinction”. These species are usually rare or in decline and trade of such species is not permitted receiving full protection under the convention.

Appendix II: these species are not yet threatened by trade but may become so if trade is not regulated. Trading of these species is permitted only if they were legally obtained and trading is not harmful to the species survival.

Appendix III: species under this appendix may not be of global concern but may be of importance to one or more countries where trading is permitted only if legally obtained and the survival of the species is not threatened.

May the fight to regulate trade of our flora and fauna species continue to yield success thereby sustainably managing our rich biodiversity which is necessary for man’s survival.


Article by: Jeannette Victor

Did you know that there are laws that protect the wildlife species and the forested areas of our island?

We often associate laws with the protection of human beings and their properties but never our precious wildlife.

It was an absolute necessity for the creation of legislation in order to protect the forest against overharvesting of timber, deforestation and setting fires in forested areas. This law was formed to help in the prevention of erosion, the conservation of natural resources, protection of wildlife habitat, maintenance of healthy water supplies, protection of infrastructure and human health.

The Wildlife Protection Act makes provision for the protection of the three categories of wildlife; protected wildlife, partially protected wildlife and unprotected wildlife.
It is an offence to hunt and take protected wildlife, their eggs or young or damage their nest. Also hunting or possession of partially protected wildlife during close season is prohibited. Any person who does not possess a license cannot sell or purchase protected wildlife and partially protected wildlife or their parts during the close season, and should not attempt to import or export them.

Consequences of breaking the law!
As with any other law, there are consequences if not adhered to. If one is found guilty of an offence under the wildlife protection act an individual could be fine a sum of five thousand dollars ($5000EC) or twelve (12) months imprisonment.

If any one is found cutting or injuring any tree, removes forest produce and carries a chainsaw without a license, starts a fire and clears land or enter a prohibited area is liable of being fine two thousand dollars ($2000EC) or six (6) months imprisonment on the first offence, three thousand ($3000EC) or nine (9) months) imprisonment with hard labor on the third offence.

Some of our protected wildlife includes agouti, St. Lucia iguana (Iyanola), boa constrictor, opossum, all migratory and land birds including our national bird Amazona versicolor.
Unprotected wildlife includes rats, mice, mongoose and Fer-de-lance.

It must be noted however, that legislation is constantly reviewed and may be subject to change as for example in the case of the Fer-de-lance which is endemic to our island and whose population is quickly dwindling.

If we have to protect St Lucia’s natural resources and the wildlife that live within our shores we must all play our part to see that the nation’s laws are enforced. 

Happy WORLD FOREST DAY 2012 - “Biodiversity and Climate Change”

World Forestry Day is celebrated every 21st of March and it commemorates the contribution and value of forests and forestry to communities. It has been celebrated around the world for over 30 years to remind people of the importance of forests and the many benefits we gain from them. The concept of having a World Forestry Day originated at the 23rd General Assembly of the European Confederation of Agriculture in 1971. March 21st, the autumnal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere, and the vernal equinox in the Northern, was chosen as a day dedicated to increase public awareness on the three (3) key facets of forestry: production, protection and recreation.

  • FORESTS are essential for life on Earth. They give us shade and shelter, refuge and refreshment, clean air, soil and water. They contribute towards the environmental, economical and socio-economical well being of a people and nation.
  • The forests help regulate our planet's temperature, provide us with oxygen and absorb pollution. Our forests are a continuing supply of nutrients and homes for all species including humans, after all before the city there was a forest, we just cut it down to build within it.

  • Today, with a growing global population and subsequent demand for forest products, the forests of the world are at risk from widespread deforestation and degradation.
  • Dying Wildlife. Diminishing Watersheds, fish spawning streams are shrinking. Powerful yet to be discovered medicines are wiped out daily!
  • Global warming and climate change looming!


  • We need to open our eyes to our behavior, our actions towards our forests. Change of attitude/ perceptions/ mindset.
  • Sustainable Management of Forest an absolute necessity. 
  • APPROXIMATELY 35% of St. Lucia is covered with some type of forests but that’s still not enough!!
  • There are 10 forest reserves in St. Lucia, a total of 7295 hectares.
Enrich your environment plant a tree today!!

Looking at St. Lucia’s Endemic Plants

By: Forestry Department & Roger Graveson
 Photos: © Roger Graveson

The forestry Department aims to catalogue every plant species found on the island, whether it be accessible or remote, common or rare.
At present there are hundreds of plant species catalogued in the herbarium of the Forestry Department.

The herbarium being where a collection of preserved plants are stored, catalogued, and arranged systematically for study by professionals and amateurs alike. This collection is a vital reference for plant identification, location etc. and is one of a kind in St. Lucia.

Research still has to be done on many of our native or endemic plants to determine for instance if there are any useful medicinal properties. We never stop learning right? For all we know one of our native plants could have properties for treating cancer, diabetes and many of the ailments which plague us today. For this and many other reasons it’s important to preserve our endemic plant species.

Botanical name:  Lobelia santa-luciae
Lobelia santa-luciae is a common shrub of elfin shrub lands on Mount Gimie/Piton Troumassé range.

Botanical name:  Gonolobus iyanolensis
This is a vine of semi-open, semi-evergreen seasonal forest and forest landslides. It is permanently established only in the Piton area but adventives elsewhere.

Local name:  Bwa senn
Botanical name:  Miconia secunda
Miconia secunda is a fairly rare tree of the understory of lower montane and montane rain forest

Local name:  Maho pimen gwan bwa
Botanical name:  Daphnopsis macrocarpa 
Maho pimen gwa bwa is an understory tree or shrub of the lower montane rainforest. It is rather rare. The bark of this plant was used by the early generation for making ropes.

Forest Fires - Fire! Fire! Not Everywhere!

Article By Nicole La Force

A great truth in this environmental age in which we live is that it is far better to complement natural systems than to manipulate them for single-purpose gain. Through recognition of ecological interrelationships we are better able to manage natural resources for the good of all.
In the forest ecosystem fire can be both an enemy and a friend. How so? Raging forest fires which indiscriminately consume everything in sight causing almost inestimable damage is no friend. We especially have to be careful now that the dry season (cowhem) is here. If it is anything like the drought we experienced in 2010 then we have to be doubly cautious. During this drought burnt hillsides were evident in many places looking quite ghastly.
 However, prescribed forest fires can be quite beneficial and are actually necessary to keep the forest healthy and growing. Prescribed fire is defined as the knowledgeable and controlled application of fire to a specific land area to accomplish planned resource management objectives. Fire management in full partnership with other environmental factors, is necessary for quality land management. Prevention, protection and fire prescribe for ecological benefits are required to meet the demands of future environmental demands. Climate change is one of the major components to be factored in when it comes to forest fire management.
Prescribed burning can be used to reduce material in the forest which would serve as fuel and encourage the spread of wild or uncontrolled forest fires. Such burnings also opens up the very dense forest canopy providing heat and allowing sunlight to penetrate the lower forest level to encourage the germination of otherwise suppressed forest species.
The Forestry Department continues to put measures in place to minimize the threats of wildfires to St. Lucia’s forest especially with the dry season on and who knows how dry it will get! An early warning system is being developed as well as continued establishment of fire lines and use of fire resistant vegetation such as fat poke is being utilized.
 So dear citizens, when you’re driving or walking, don’t fling your cigarette buts carelessly out the window. Better yet quit smoking it’s bad for your health anyway. Don’t throw glass bottles in the dry grass which can focus the sun’s rays and catch fire to dry kindling.

Let’s continue working together to protect our forest which enriches our lives more than we know!