Saint Lucia’s Forestry Department, concerned over the impact of big fetes on the sensitive ecosystem at Praslin Island, has called for a ban on such activities.
Assistant Chief Forestry Officer Pius Haynes observed that the site had become popular for major beach parties and fetes.
But he explained the area is a conservation site and a sanctuary for some rare, endangered endemic wildlife, notably the Saint Lucia whiptail lizard.
Wildlife officials translocated the reptiles from the Maria Islands to the Praslin and Rat Islets around 1995 to avoid having the creatures all at one site.
However, Haynes told St Lucia Times that people are using the Praslin site in an unsustainable manner that would not promote the conservation of the endangered species.
“Most notably, we are quite concerned over the big fetes on holidays and weekends,” he stated.
He said the area does not have the carrying capacity for all those persons at any one point in time.
Among the concerns are numbers above one hundred in attendance in an area of about one hectare, a pileup of litter after the fetes, and the lighting of fires to cook food.
Haynes told St Lucia Times that just one out-of-control fire could destroy the entire habitat which is a dry forested area.
In addition, he indicated that people interfere with wildlife, some of which end up dying.
He also disclosed that people feed the lizards.
“The animals eat the food scraps and the lizards have learned that and they tend to gravitate towards the beach, towards people and this to us is a concern as it relates to their survival,” Haynes stated.
“We believe there needs to be a certain level of control and also persons need to contact the relevant authorities, including the Forestry Department regarding the use of the Islet,” he told St Lucia Times.
And he disclosed Forestry Department plans to collaborate with other stakeholders to implement measures to ensure the sustainable use of the Praslin site so that wildlife and humans can coexist.
Nevertheless, Haynes declared that the Forestry Department believes huge fetes attracting over one hundred people should be banned.
“Huge fetes should be entirely banned from Praslin Island. We will tolerate under controlled conditions, little family picnics and beach outings, but not any huge undertaking,” he asserted.