>> Friday, July 11, 2008
In case you haven't figured it out, I live in St. Thomas, VI. We are a part of the United States just located in the Caribbean. The Caribbean (for all us science types) is a tectonic plate all its own and the collision and interaction of this little plate with other larger ones is how the Antilles were formed. Because our islands with the rest of the ones in the Caribbean form a chain that acts as a barrier for the fierce Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea is calm and tranquil pretty much consistently.
Pretty, I know. It's not just the scenery that is nice, or the trade winds that keep the temperature mild. Below the surface is a bunch of really beautiful reef. The reefs in the Caribbean are predominately 70 different species of reef building coral, a ton of sponges, crustaceans (think crab and shrimp), mollusks (think escargot and clams)and various other invertebrates. They are also home to hundreds upon hundreds of species of fish, turtles, and other chordates (more on that some other time).
On land we have some interesting critters as well. About 2,000 species of bug and insects (that includes really pretty butterflies and amazing rhinoceros beetles) also call St. Thomas home as do numerous other types of animals like wild donkeys, deer, boar (although not so much on St. Thomas as St. John now-a-days), iguana, birds a plenty, bats, mongoose, snakes, chickens (they deserve a separate listing than birds) and lots of other fauna.
With all this we are still having our problems. Due to over development (living here seems to be prime real estate), our native plants are disappearing and animal habitat is all but gone in places. The snakes are all but gone, we are having a heck of a time breeding the local butterflies as most of the host plants are being removed, the parrots aren't coming back like they should... the list goes on. With all the beautiful scenery and natural environments, it's a shame we can't focus our tourism around this a bit more. Granted there are lots of dive spots, but what of our mangroves and tropical dry forest? What of the gallery forests in out "guts" (guts are temporary waterfalls where freshwater drains off the bedrock)? I think people would want to see this. Maybe it's just me.
I enjoy finding the few place left here that haven't been developed, where the runoff from the building hasn't destroyed the reefs, the parrots still sing, and the mangroves are uninterrupted. I love it here, and I think everyone who comes here on vacation should support eco-tourism and the University, so our local government can see what people really enjoy is the pristine.
All Photos by Marizela Moya are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.