In 1986 I had the pleasure of visiting St Croix V.I. a United States Territory in the Carribean. While there I was struck by the uniqueness of water as clear as tap water, schools of fish, both colorful and plentiful, lizards running everywhere and coral like an underwater paradise I had never imagined. Within the small island was a miniature ecological system. Trade winds coming off the ocean from the east sweep across desert like terrain with Cactus. As the wind hits the island's central hills it is swept up and clouds are formed. Those clouds move on to produce heavy rain and near the West end a Tropical Rain Forest flourishes. I held the memories of this visit like a vivid movie of an amazing paradise over the past 26 years.
This summer after four camp sessions I returned to St Croix Virgin Islands and felt the time had not passed as I looked around at the Island's beauty. My visit there was wonderful but as I stayed and looked longer I noticed some important things had changed while I was away.The most amazing world I experienced before and remembered vividly had been underwater while snorkeling at a national park called Buck Island. The Island and the surrounding coral beds surrounding it are considered the park. Recently I saw very few fish around the coral and the coral was no longer colorful or as alive as I had remembered. I questioned people about the change and they said that hurricanes had damaged the coral and possibly the water getting warmer in general was a cause. It made me think that what I had enjoyed was no longer there for you or future generations to see. I was happy that the people who sailed us out to the park would not take us on a beach where migrating birds were nesting. That showing respect for animals habitat encouraged me somewhat.. I was however very saddened by such a marked change in something I had admired a short 26 years before.
On the small cay (key) where our Hotel was located there is an endangered lizard called the St. Croix Ground Lizard. It only lives on the small cay with the hotel and two other other cays off the Island. Many years ago the Mongoose was brought to the Island to get rid of rats but the Mongoose only hunts in the daytime and rats are out at night. Therefore they have only gotten rid of every type of snake and have endangered the lizards.
In Maryland we were bothered by Stink Bugs last year. If another insect is brought in to get rid of the stink bug it might also get rid of something we want to keep. therefore, our government is moving very carefully that what they might introduce into our country is only harmful to the stink bugs. When we went to get on the plane the people at the airport asked us if we had any plants or other things. I showed them my shells I had collected and they took them. They explained that those shells are what creates the Island through the water churning it over and over to create sand and they do not want people taking shells away. I was glad they were being careful about protecting their Island.
On the Cay where we stayed every evening many birds would return from over the hills on the Island and fly into the few trees by the hotel. They were so beautiful flying and also fun to watch as they played in the branches and settled in for the night. Some large pelicans sat among the branches and preened their feathers. Many white and black Egrets landed at the top of the trees and flapped and jostled for a position for quite a while. Also there were large White Herons among the branches and many nested in the trees as well. Each evening the beauty of the setting sun and the flying back of so many lovely birds became a part of the trip I really enjoyed.
During the day when I was at the shore line on the cay another endangered and lovely White Crowned Pigeon walked and flew around as well as building nests and cooing like a dove. ( See short video at bottom of page)
Returning to a place I considered a natural paradise proved sobering but has given me a desire to try and turn things around. My hope is that raising awareness by writing this article and contacting the fish and wildlife organization in St Croix I hope to donate funds and my time when I return within the next year.