When visiting St. Thomas, you of course are very aware of your surroundings. It’s hard not to be because everything is so beautiful! You will see many things that you are not used to, and it’s always a good idea to respect the animals and living organisms that cross your path. Several terrestrial and marine species of plants and animals in the USVI are threatened or endangered.
The list includes a number of plants, staghorn and elkhorn corals, black coral, the green sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the leatherback turtle, and the loggerhead sea turtle, St. Croix ground lizard, the Virgin Islands Boa, the brown pelican, the peregrine falcon, many other species of nesting birds, the slipperyback skink, the Atlantic goliath grouper, and three species of bat.
When visiting St. Thomas, you might see turtles. The green turtle, leatherback turtle and hawksbill turtle are all sea turtles that were once very common to the USVI. All three species nest on sandy beaches, some of which are protected in the USVI in order to prevent further harm to the turtle population.
Leatherback turtles have been around for over 150 million years. They can weigh over 1000 pounds and can grow to approximately nine feet. The are considered to be vulnerable to extinction. Turtles such as the leatherback turtle have become endangered because of egg collection and meat harvest by humans; nesting beaches are being developed which limits the areas for which turtles can lay their eggs, coral reefs are being destroyed. There is also a lot of pollution in the ocean which is killing many turtles. It is illegal to collect turtle eggs and to harvest turtle meat in the USVI because of this.
The jewfish are very big and can grow to approximately eight feet in length and weigh 1000 pounds! The jewfish is endangered because of over fishing since they are easy to catch.
Virgin Islands Tree Boa
The small Virgin Islands Boa has a distinct mottled pattern, light grey-brown with dark brown markings and a cream colored belly with dark markings. They are known to live in steep coastal forest among dry rocky soil. The tree boa is almost never seen in the Virgin Islands, it has become endangered due to large-scale habitat destruction and its demise was greatly impacted by the introduction of the mongoose.
Virgin Islands Screech Owl
The screech owl lives primarily in dense woodland and caves. It was last reported to have been seen in 1980 and in some references is listed as extinct since there have been no records of seeing it in such a long time. The demise of the Virgin Islands Screech owl is due largely to deforestation.