Category: Amuseum Naturalis

We’re Relaunching Amuseum Naturalis

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is being prepared for a 2018 launch.

After delighting over 10,000 visitors in its first two years, Amuseum Naturalis is coming back in a new location in 2018. St. Martin’s first natural history museum will be expanding to highlight island heritage and culture as well as nature. At the new location, formerly The Old House museum, there will also be community projects including gardens, a composting center and a native plants nursery.

“We are thrilled to create a space to tell all the stories of St. Martin!” announced Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’re working with the local community to find and tell stories. We especially want to shine a light on heritage that’s been ignored or suppressed, and show how the island’s history and culture is fascinating and meaningful.”

Amuseum Naturalis is developed and operated by the Les Fruits de Mer association. The group believes this project is important for many reasons. Local school systems are already under stress after Hurricane Irma. School materials on the island come from Europe or North America, and don’t teach enough about local nature or heritage. The Amuseum has been, and will be, free for all. It is a place where young people can discover science and history, and develop valuable skills.

Amuseum Naturalis had over 10,000 visitors in the last two years.

“We’re really happy to see the amount of support the Amuseum is getting,” commented Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “Volunteers have been coming to help clear the property and prepare the site. Everyone who comes falls in love with this place. People from around the world have been supporting with donations. It’s a big project, but together we can make it happen for the island!”

Amuseum volunteers pause for a photo after a recent clean-up session.

Les Fruits de Mer are currently working with volunteers to prepare the new location every weekend, and more volunteers are always welcome. The next volunteer day is Saturday, March 17th, and more information is available at lesfruitsdemer.com and on the Les Fruits de Mer Facebook page. There is also a crowdfunding campaign raising funds until March 30th. St. Martiners interested in sharing stories or ideas about topics to feature in the museum should contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Free BirdSleuth Caribbean Training Offered to Teachers and Youth Group Leaders

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a bird-based education program made for the Caribbean.

Everyone loves birds. They are majestic and inspiring. They are dedicated parents. Their sweet songs fill the air with life. They’re also a great way to learn about nature and science.

“Imagine a school class having fun and learning about biology by playing a game of Bird Bingo or Habitat Scavenger Hunt,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We’re excited to make that possible by offering a free training program for teachers and educators. It can be used in the classroom and outdoors and it was made for the Caribbean.”

Binkie van Es leads a BirdSleuth activity at the Endemic Animal Festival. (Photo: Agnes Etchegoyen)

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a set of fun lessons and activities that uses birds to teach youth about nature and science. BirdSleuth Caribbean has been specially adapted for the region, so kids learn about the birds and habitats that they can see around them. It’s designed for students 9-13 years old. The program contains lessons, activities and learning games that can be done in the classroom and outdoors.

Les Fruits de Mer will be hosting free training in the BirdSleuth program with instructor Binkie van Es. Participants will enjoy hands-on training and receive materials to bring back to their class or youth group. On each training day, 4-5 different games and activities will be taught.

Amuseum Naturalis has indoor and outdoor space for BirdSleuth activities.

“It’s an amazing feeling to see kids fall in love with birds and science through the BirdSleuth program,” explained BirdSleuth instructor Binkie van Es. “Birds are the perfect gateway to a love of nature and a passion for learning. The activities are a lot of fun for teachers, too!”

The training will be at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House on two Saturdays: September 22 and Sept 29, from 9am-1pm. It will be bilingual in English and French. It is free, and lunch will be served after each training session. If you are interested, please contact info@lesfruitsdemer.com to reserve your spot in the free training.

House of Ages

The Old House has been part of the St. Martin landscape for hundreds of years. The first known record of it is from 1766. The foundations of this house are from this era. In the census of 1772, it was the most valuable estate on the French side. Crops included 2,000 coffee plants, 1,000 banana trees and acres of cotton, potatoes and cassava.  The names of the 49 enslaved people who lived there at the time are unknown, but traces of their lives can still be detected on the site today. They cleared and farmed the land, tended the livestock, constructed stone walls, and built the foundations of this house. 

The Old House.

By 1793, much of the land was used to grow sugar cane. A mill had been built in the valley across the street. Facilities were made to refine sugar and produce vinegar and rum. At this time, the property was owned by members of the Hodge family, originally from Anguilla. By 1816, there were 77 enslaved people on this estate, producing sugar while also raising their own food. The original wooden home was destroyed in the hurricane of 1819 and then rebuilt on the same foundation.

By the late 1830s, the property was in decline and it was considered a “former sugar mill” by 1837. In 1843, the property was acquired by Daniel Beauperthuy, who had the rights to produce salt on the Orient Bay salt pond. In addition to salt production, this estate grew cotton and raised livestock: 70 cattle, 36 mules and 234 sheep. By 1931, the house was again in disrepair. Unable to tear down the strong posts, Louis Emile “Lil’ Dan” Beauperthuy set the remains of the house on fire. He said it burned for about two weeks.

The concrete house you see today was built in 1935 by Adolph Artsen. It remained the residence of the Beauperthuy family for many years, and they continued to manage salt production in Orient Bay until the late 1950s. Pierre Beauperthuy transformed the property into a museum of history and culture in the early 2000s. His charisma and gift for storytelling were key parts of the museum he created here. It was a monument to his love of his island and its history.

Pierre Beauperthuy builds his museum.

In 2018, the Les Fruits de Mer association began restoring this property as a museum of nature, history and culture on St. Martin. Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is a free museum dedicated to sharing all the stories of St. Martin. It is also a center for community projects, including a native plants nursery, shared gardens and other collaborative projects. The museum is now open for its fall hours, Tuesday to Saturday, 9am to Noon.

Rediscover St. Martin at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House

Students enjoy activities during their visit to Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House.

People of all ages are invited to enjoy and explore Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House this fall. Organizers have announced the fall hours–the Amuseum will be open from 9am to noon, Tuesday to Saturday, starting September 1st. Amuseum Naturalis is a free museum of local nature, history and culture, developed by the Les Fruits de Mer association with an all-volunteer team. It is located at the historic Old House on the hill above Le Galion in French Quarter.

“We had a fantastic summer preview, with over 1,000 visitors in just over a month,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We especially enjoyed the summer camps and school groups that visited during the preview. Now we’re inviting teachers and youth group leaders to schedule fall visits!”

While the process of restoring The Old House continues, the Amuseum has opened its gardens and an exhibit hall featuring eight exhibits. In the back yard, visitors can enjoy amazing views and learn about native trees and plants. A bush tea and bush medicine garden is growing, with many plants donated by St. Martiners who want to share this tradition.

Visitors learn about The Old House and its history dating back to the 1700s.

The Amuseum’s “micro-theater” shows a reel of over a dozen documentary shorts about nature, history and culture. Many of the films feature fascinating interviews with St. Martiners. Les Fruits de Mer members and volunteers have been interviewing St. Martin residents to share the stories of the island as told by its people. The association’s goal is to collaborate with the community so the Amuseum can be a true reflection of the island.

Families are encouraged to visit the Amuseum. Amuseum Hunt! and Amuseum Adventure! are two fun activities created by the association to help students and families interact with the exhibits.

The public is also invited to share their stories during their visits. The Amuseum is ready to film interviews, scan photos or documents and photograph historic items. Volunteers are also welcome. To get involved, just stop by the Amuseum when it is open or email the association at info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

For more information about Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com. Schools and youth groups can schedule group visits by contacting info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Mystery Machines

The backyard of The Old House in French Quarter was overgrown with trees and bushes that had been growing wild for years. On top of that, Hurricane Irma had downed branches and tossed debris everywhere. Volunteers had spent weeks clearing the yard before they finally reached the mystery machine.

The trapped flywheel.

You could almost walk by and miss it. A flywheel sticks out at ground level beside a newly cleared path. A patina of rust covers the iron, and it is similar in color to the dirt and tree bark around it. Further in, another part looks like the bell of a saxophone.

The mouth of the machine.

How long has it been there? Based on the tree trunks that are growing through the machine, it has been there for decades at least. At least some of it is now underground, but we aren’t sure how much.

This mystery machine is a symbol of so much. It tells us of old times and old ways now forgotten. Especially as a group of volunteers gathers around it to make wild guesses about what it was once used for. It tells us of a St. Martin that was the same island, but also a very different one.

It reminds us of the constant struggle to maintain our homes and possessions against the ravages of nature and time. Concrete crumbles, metal rusts and wood is eaten by termites. Nature reclaims her land, inch by inch. The process is constant and effortless.

Surely this machine didn’t come cheap when it was bought. It was forged far away and brought here on a long ocean journey. At a time when there were no cars, refrigerators or big screen televisions, this was surely a major purchase. Yet there it is, grown into the landscape. Once valuable and useful, the world around it changed.

The mystery machine.

We look forward to researching this and other mystery machines from St. Martin’s past. They are not just relics. They were once used by people here. Understanding the purpose of these machines and tools can tell us what people were doing here as they went about their daily lives.

Do you have stories of tools and machines that were used once upon a time on St. Martin? Share them by writing to The Daily Herald or info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Amuseum Naturalis Open House

We had a fantastic time at today’s open house at Amuseum Naturalis. Over 100 people came by to enjoy our summer preview. Guests also brought plants for the bush tea garden. For July and August we will be open from 9am to noon, so please come by to see us! We have 8 fascinating exhibits right now. You can also watch our films in our micro-theater and enjoy seeing the historic house and grounds. As always, admission to the Amuseum is free!

Amuseum Naturalis Open House

People of all ages are invited to visit Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House this Sunday from 9am to noon. St. Martin’s free museum of nature, history and culture is celebrating the launch of its summer preview with an open house event.

Amuseum Naturalis is a museum dedicated to sharing all that is unique about St. Martin. It was developed by the non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer. During 2016 and 2017, it was located in Grand Case. The association is relaunching and expanding the Amuseum at the historic Old House in French Quarter.

“Right now, everyone is looking for fun stuff to do—especially parents and kids,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We decided to do a summer preview so people can start enjoying the Amuseum, even while we continue to develop it.”

The summer preview includes an exhibit hall with eight exhibits. Visitors will discover fascinating displays on topics like animals found only on St. Martin, traditional building techniques and the tree with the hardest wood in the world. They can also see projects in progress, like the Amuseum’s bush tea garden.

The open house is Sunday, July 22nd from 9am to noon. Following the open house, the Amuseum will be open Monday to Friday from 9am to noon during July and August. Admission to the Amuseum is free. Schools and youth groups are invited to contact Les Fruits de Mer to arrange a group visit.

Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House is located in French Quarter at the top of the hill above Le Galion. For a map and more information, visit http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Volunteers and Donors Support Amuseum Naturalis Relaunch

Over 80 volunteers have helped out at the Amuseum this year.

This year, non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer is working on an ambitious project to relaunch their free museum, Amuseum Naturalis. The Amuseum’s new home is the site of the former Old House museum between French Quarter and Orient Bay. In addition to exhibits about nature, the new museum will feature local heritage and culture.

“This is a huge project for us, but we have had an amazing amount of support,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “Over 100 donors contributed to our fundraiser last month, raising over $11,000 for the project. And over 80 people have already come out to volunteer at the site. This support makes the project possible, and also shows that people want a museum for the community and want to be part of making it happen.”

For Les Fruits de Mer, the current volunteer work is just the beginning of an ongoing collaboration with the community to make the museum an active space. The association is developing community projects—like gardens and a free nursery for native trees. They also want to create exhibits with community members who have stories to share.

“Our goal is to create a space where people can share the stories of St. Martin in many ways—exhibits, videos and live events,” explained Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama. “We can record the stories and develop exhibits, but the stories have to come from the people of St. Martin. Everyone has a story.”

Volunteers are invited to help work on the museum from 8am to 11am on Sunday, April 8th. There will be an idea box for volunteers to submit ideas about what they’d like to see featured in the Amuseum. Volunteers can also suggest plants that should be grown in the museum’s bush tea garden. For more information visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook

Amuseum Updates!

The relaunch of Amuseum Naturalis has been progressing in many ways. Our volunteer days have been getting more and more busy with loads of people coming out to help. Luckily, we have plenty of work to do! Here’s a short video from Saturday:

Our next clean-up is Saturday, March 24th from 9am to noon with a BBQ after. Please come by! You can also invite friends via Facebook.

We’ve also been going gangbusters on our March fundraising campaign. In the first week, we raised over $8,000 from 69 generous donors. This campaign continues through March 30th, so please join us! Or send an email to someone who might want to help—it works! 91% of the people that donated recevied an email from someone about the project. Click here to see the project page, learn more and donate!

Caribbean Curiosities: Having it Both Ways

All of the creatures that have found lasting success on St. Martin have some kind of adaptation that makes them suited to life here. Freshwater species have more challenges than most, and the Apple Snail is well equipped to deal with them.

The Apple Snail is well-adapted to St. Martin.

The Apple Snail is a large snail that lives in freshwater habitats. Members of their family live in Africa, Asia and the Americas, so scientists believe they date back to a time when all the continents were joined together. In this hemisphere, most species are native to South America, with a few found just in the Caribbean.

Many of the adaptations of the Apple Snail allow it to survive dry seasons, which happen each year in many tropical areas. Like many snails, they have an operculum—a door to their shell. They can seal it if the pond or stream they live in goes dry. They enter a state known as estivation, resting dormant until rains return.

The Apple Snail is also somewhat amphibious. They have a gill for breathing underwater, and a lung for breathing air. The ability to breathe air allows them to leave the water, at least temporarily, to feed. In stagnant water, they can use the lung to get additional oxygen from the air. They even have a special snorkel that they can extend to breathe air while they are still underwater.

A snorkel starts to reach up for air.

Another benefit of their amphibious nature is the ability to protect their eggs. These snails leave the water, and lay a cluster of eggs above the water line. This protects the eggs from fish and other potential predators.

This variety of adaptations has made the Apple Snail quite successful. They have also made it an unwanted pest in places where it has been introduced accidentally or on purpose. One species—brought to Taiwan as a potential food—ended up seriously harming rice production. Its ability to leave the water to feed makes it a pest for other crops as well.

On St. Martin, this snail can be found in many of the small streams and drainage ditches in Concordia, often using its lung to traverse extremely shallow areas. Plants along the banks of these streams hold egg clusters, looking like pale, misshapen raspberries. The next time you are in the area, keep an eye out for these remarkable snails.

Caribbean Curiosities: Between Worlds

We are all familiar with the salmon’s journey. From the ocean, it enters rivers and makes a miraculous journey upstream to spawn and then die. In the Caribbean, there are many animals that find a life between the land and sea, and a home in fresh and salty waters.

On St. Martin, one is never far from the sea. Most obviously, we find it at the edge of every beach and at the bottom of each seaside cliff. But the sea also has ways of invading the island itself.

The sea seeps into the land through the porous limestone, adding its salty essence to well water. It washes upstream in the few spots where fresh water running down a gut reaches the sea. And, of course, salty water from the sea fills many of our salt ponds.

The Crested Goby lives on the edge.

These brackish waters—neither part of the sea, nor totally separate from it—are a rich and unique habitat. The creatures that live here must adapt to the changing conditions of this zone: a rainstorm pushing the balance towards freshness, a dry spell pushing it to salty.

For some, life between two worlds is just a passing phase. Many juvenile fish use brackish mangrove wetlands as a nursery. In the shallow water, sheltered in mangrove roots, they find a safe place to grow. They then swim out to the coral reef to live. Some freshwater species—like the Mountain Mullet and many freshwater shrimp—float in the sea as eggs. After hatching they travel with the current, then swim into fresh water to mature.

Fish like the Crested Goby spend a lifetime on the borderline. They often live around mangroves, digging out a hollow in the sand or finding a root-sheltered hiding spot. They also live in estuaries where streams and rivers empty into the sea. Unlike most fish, they can live perfectly fresh water, pure seawater and anything in-between.

The Crested Goby is also flexible when it comes to food. Algae is on the menu, but so are crabs, insects, snails and even small fish. It is an integral part of the wetland community that captures nutrients washed down from the island. It plays a part in keeping the seas both clean and full of life.

The adaptable Crested Goby has found a niche that allows it to occupy the cracks and crevices between two worlds. In doing so, it has also turned its back on life in the open ocean. It is a creature of the sea, tied forever to the edge of the land.

Hundreds Enjoy Local Wildlife at Endemic Animal Festival

Endemic Animal Festival guests enjoyed painting bird feeders made from local calabash and recycled fishing line. Photo by Tim Cam.

Hundreds of guests from St. Martin and beyond learned about local wildlife at the fourth annual Endemic Animal Festival on Sunday. The event, held at Amuseum Naturalis in Grand Case, featured animals found nowhere else in the world and a variety of activities for young and old. Created by the Les Fruits de Mer association, the festival is free and takes place each April.

“Getting to know the animals that live only on St. Martin is a fundamental part of understanding the island,” explained Mark Yokoyama, co-founder of Les Fruits de Mer. “The Endemic Animal Festival is one of our most important initiatives because it is a truly authentic, only on St. Martin experience.”

The Endemic Animal Discovery Station featured species found only on St. Martin and nowhere else in the world. Photo by Claire Affagard.

This year’s festival included a variety of fun ways to celebrate and explore island wildlife. The Endemic Animal Discovery Station showcased two species of lizard and one insect that are found only on St. Martin, as well as other species that live on only a few islands. Local wildlife experts were on hand to talk about the animals and answer questions. Guests painted bird feeders made from calabash and took home seedlings of the Gaïac, an endangered native tree.

“Hosting the festival at Amuseum Naturalis was a great addition to the event this year,” added Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer. “Guests were able to enjoy over a dozen exhibits about local nature and our program of short nature documentaries in addition to the festival activities. If you haven’t been to the Amuseum yet, we’re open for two more days this season: April 28th and May 2nd from 4-8pm at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case. It’s free to visit.”

The Endemic Animal Festival was made possible by the generous support of its sponsors: BirdsCaribbean, Caribbean Paddling, Delta Petroleum, Hotel L’Esplanade, IGY Marinas, Lagoonies Bistro & Bar, L’Esperance Hotel, Rain Forest Adventures, The Scuba Shop, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino and Tri-Sport. For more information, and to see photos from the event, visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com.

Festival attendees received a free seedling of the Gaïac, an endangered native tree. Photo by Claire Affagard.

Caribbean Curiosities: The Last Refuge

The ravines on the western slope of Pic Paradis feature a forest unlike anything else on St. Martin—or neighboring Anguilla and St. Barts for that matter. It is the homeland of our Bearded Anole, and may have been its birthplace, too.

The Bearded Anole, an icon of St. Martin.

In ecology, endemic means something that is only found in one specific place. There are a couple ways this can happen. A neoendemic species is a new species that evolves in a unique location. This happens a lot on islands. The term paleoendemic describes almost the opposite situation: the last refuge of a species that was once more widespread. This can happen on an island, too.

Our beautiful Bearded Anole—like most of our native reptiles—is a great example of a neoendemic species. Little lizards spread from island to island, blossoming into a wide variety of species as they adapted to their new homes. Lush forest may have been ancestral home of this species. It is ill-suited to the full heat of the tropical sun, and is primarily found in shady areas.

For most of the last 100,000 years, the Bearded Anole probably had lots of habitat. Sea levels were lower, and St. Martin was part of a much bigger island that included present-day Anguilla, St. Barts and beyond. Surely there were many shady forests where this lizard could live.

Around 12,000 years ago, rising sea levels separated St. Martin, Anguilla and St. Barts. The Bearded Anole probably lived on all three islands, but St. Barts and Anguilla are both lower than St. Martin. Because of this, they lacked the water and wind protection to develop the type of broadleaf forest that stretches from Colombier up to Pic Paradis.

We have no record of the Bearded Anole on St. Barts, and it was last recorded on Anguilla in the 1920s. Today it lives only on St. Martin, a relict population in its last refuge. It is both a neoendemic species that arose here, and a paleoendemic species that disappeared from the other places it lived.

Many of natures most miraculous creatures evolved on islands. They make up a tiny percentage of the land mass of the earth, but are home to much of the planet’s diversity. Unfortunately, over half of animal extinctions have also happened on islands, a trend that continues. The individuality of the island—in richness and struggle—is reflected in our Bearded Anole.

You can learn more about the Bearded Anole and other animals found only on St. Martin at Amuseum Naturalis, located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case. The museum is free and open 4-8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Sunday, April 23rd from 9am-3pm the Amuseum will host the 2017 Endemic Animal Festival. Get more info at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Amuseum Naturalis Hosts Endemic Animal Festival This Sunday

Amuseum Naturalis, St. Martin’s only nature museum, hosts the Endemic Animal Festival this Sunday, April 23rd from 9am-3pm.

People of all ages are invited to discover the incredible animals that live only on St. Martin and only in our region at the fourth annual Endemic Animal Festival. This year’s festival takes place at Amuseum Naturalis in Grand Case from 9am to 3pm on Sunday, April 23rd. As always, the festival is completely free.

“Amuseum Naturalis was created as a showcase for St. Martin’s unique natural heritage, so it’s the perfect place to host the Endemic Animal Festival,” explained Mark Yokoyama, co-founder of Les Fruits de Mer, the association that created both the museum and the festival. Amuseum Naturalis is St. Martin’s only natural history museum.

The 2017 festival will include a full slate of fun, educational activities. Guests can get up close with fascinating island endemics like stick insects and anolis lizards at the Endemic Animal Discovery Station. Creative activities inspired by native wildlife will be hosted for people of all ages. Younger kids will enjoy coloring and activity pages designed by local artists featuring island animals. Older children and adults can paint birdfeeders made from calabashes, which they can take home to attract birds throughout the year. Guests can also bring home a seedling of the Gaïac, a native Caribbean tree that became endangered due to overharvesting.

This Sunday’s Endemic Animal Festival celebrates the amazing wildlife that can only be found here, like this Bearded Anole.

“The Endemic Animal Festival caps off a truly amazing season at Amuseum Naturalis. It’s the perfect opportunity to visit the museum if you haven’t already,” said Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer. Festival-goers will be able to enjoy the museum’s exhibits, including the current special exhibit—Women, People of Color and the Making of Natural History in the Caribbean—which spotlights unsung heroes of Caribbean natural science.

The 2017 Endemic Animal Festival will be held at Amuseum Naturalis at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case on Sunday, April 23rd from 9am-3pm, rain or shine. The festival is made possible by the generous support of its sponsors: BirdsCaribbean, Caribbean Paddling, Delta Petroleum, Hotel L’Esplanade, IGY Marinas, Lagoonies Bistro & Bar, L’Esperance Hotel, Rain Forest Adventures, The Scuba Shop, Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa, Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino and Tri-Sport. For more information, visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com.

The free Endemic Animal Festival is this Sunday, April 23rd from 9am-3pm at Amuseum Naturalis in Grand Case.

Caribbean Curiosities: The Little Things

They’re all around us, but we rarely notice them. They’re specially-equipped for climbing, but mostly live on the ground. They’re probably the most common reptiles on St. Martin, but few people even know their names.

The Little Woodslave can turn on a dime.

St. Martin’s dwarf geckos are some of its most unique and mysterious residents. The island has two species. The smaller one is known as the Little Woodslave or Anguilla Bank Dwarf Gecko. The larger is called the Least Island Gecko or Leeward Banded Dwarf Gecko. Hidden in their confusing names are some clues to how unique they are.

The Little Woodslave is found on only a few islands in the world: Anguilla, St. Martin, St. Barts and the smaller islets in the immediate area. Combined, these islands make up the Anguilla Bank featured in the name Anguilla Bank Dwarf Gecko. When the last ice age lowered sea levels by locking water in glaciers, these islands were connected into a larger island. Hop over to Saba or Statia—which have never been connected to St. Martin—and you won’t find the Little Woodslave. Its cousin, the Saban Dwarf Gecko, lives there.

It’s hard to say what the name Least Island Gecko is supposed to mean. It doesn’t live on the fewest islands—it’s found from Anguilla down to Nevis. It also isn’t the smallest—there is a smaller dwarf gecko on every island where it lives. It’s other name, Leeward Banded Dwarf Gecko, isn’t much better. Sometimes they are banded, but other times not at all.

Not banded, but beautiful.

Dwarf geckos may be small, but they do have strength in numbers. There are over 100 species of dwarf gecko in the genus Sphaerodactylus, and the vast majority live only in the Caribbean. This vibrant diversity is one reason the Caribbean is considered a biodiversity hotspot.

In terms of population, one study measured dwarf gecko density equivalent to 21,000 geckos per acre. In theory that would work out to about 450 million dwarf geckos on St. Martin, if the entire island were perfect habitat for them. Probably there are far fewer, but the real number could be almost unimaginably high.

What do these tiny lizards do? They eat insects. Mostly ants and other very small things, and probably a lot of them. Perhaps enough to impact the whole ecosystem of the island. They turned their miniature size into an advantage that made them incredibly successful. In the Caribbean, their tiny feet leave a big footprint.

You can learn more about dwarf geckos and other animals found only in our region at Amuseum Naturalis, located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case. The museum is free and open 4-8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Get more info at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

EAF Sponsor Spotlight: Delta Petroleum

We’re thrilled to have Delta Petroleum as a sponsor of the Endemic Animal Festival this year. They are also the sponsor of this year’s location, Amuseum Naturalis! Founded in 1985, Delta serves the Caribbean with superior performance diesel, gasoline and LPG meeting U.S. and European standards. Delta is a proud and growing member of the communities from the Virgin Islands to Martinique. Delta Petroleum has sponsored Les Fruits de Mer events since 2013.
http://deltapetroleum.com

Amuseum Naturalis Exhibit on Unsung Heroes of Caribbean Science Opens April 18th

Amuseum Naturalis co-curator Jenn Yerkes prepares vibrant panels showcasing trailblazers of Caribbean natural history for the April 18th exhibit launch.

Amuseum Naturalis invites the public to the free gala opening of the museum’s exhibit WOMEN, PEOPLE OF COLOR, AND THE MAKING OF NATURAL HISTORY IN THE CARIBBEAN from 4-8pm on Tuesday, April 18th. The installation is part of a special series created to shine a light on the trailblazers of Caribbean natural science from the late 1400s to the early 1900s. The exhibit brings their discoveries, explorations and stories to life with vivid biographical snapshots and reproductions of beautiful antique zoological and botanical illustrations, engravings, maps, and portraits by historical and contemporary artists. Be The Change SXM contributed to funding for this exhibit and the upcoming companion website.

“People of color and women have made important contributions to science throughout history. But their work has often been suppressed, or just not as well publicized as that of their white male peers, and this happened in Caribbean science just like everywhere else. We wanted to create an opportunity for people to discover the fascinating stories of these incredible women and men who helped to build the scientific heritage of the Caribbean,” explains Jenn Yerkes, Amuseum Naturalis co-curator and Les Fruits de Mer President. She adds, “We hope everyone will come out to celebrate the exhibition launch, find out about these amazing pioneers, and enjoy wine and hors d’oeuvres at the opening reception!”

The free, public exhibit will launch Tuesday night, which will include captivating figures such as Catalina de Ayahibex, a 15th century Taino tribal leader who was an expert in native plants; Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717), a scientific artist known for her expedition to Surinam to document Greater Caribbean insects, reptiles, birds, and plants; and Graman Quassi (ca. 1690 – ca. 1780), a renowned healer and botanist of African descent, and more.

Modern portraits of pioneers like Charlotte Dugée, an 18th century botanic artist from Saint Domingue, were created for the exhibit, opening April 18th at Amuseum Naturalis.

The free opening reception and the exhibition will be held in the Special Exhibition Room at Amuseum Naturalis. The exhibition will run April 18th to May 2nd, and can be visited during the museum’s regular opening hours as well as from 9am-3pm on Sunday, April 23rd during the 2017 Endemic Animal Festival.

Amuseum Naturalis is a free pop-up museum that highlights the natural history of St. Martin and the Caribbean, created by the Les Fruits de Mer association. The museum is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-8pm. Amuseum Naturalis is located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case in Grand Case. It is made possible by the generous support of Delta Petroleum and over a dozen businesses and individual donors who have become Friends of the Amuseum. For more information, visit amuseumnaturalis.com.

The exhibit features images of Caribbean wildlife like this Tetrio Sphinx Moth caterpillar, painted by naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian on her 1699 expedition.

EAF Sponsor Spotlight: Sonesta Resorts St. Maarten

The Endemic Animal Festival is thrilled to have the sponsorship support of Sonesta Resorts. Sonesta Resorts St. Maarten features three stunning oceanfront limitless all-inclusive properties including the family-friendly Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino & Spa, the adults-only Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort, Casino & Spa and the newest addition, the luxury adults-only Sonesta Ocean Point Resort. Each property boasts several restaurants and bars, multiple pools, extensive wedding, events and meeting facilities, casino and a signature Serenity Spa offering treatments to pamper guests. All inclusive Day passes are available at $89 for Sonesta Maho or Great Bay Beach Resort, as well as discounted local resident rates for overnight stays.

http://www.sonesta.com/stmaarten

EAF Sponsor Spotlight: L’Esperance Hotel

L’Esperance is a brand new sponsor for the Endemic Animal Festival and we are excited to have them! Conveniently located in Cay Hill with easy access to both Philipsburg and Simpson Bay, L’Esperance Hotel features 22 spacious and luxurious one and two bedroom suites appointed in tropical rattan. Features include our beautiful pool with a sun deck, air-conditioning, cable TV, direct dial telephones, in-room safes, full kitchens, private balconies, and free Wifi.
http://www.lesperancehotel.com

Native Nature Ebook Showcases Stars of Endemic Animal Festival

St. Martin’s native animals may not be famous yet, but they deserve to be. They are a true showcase of what makes the island unique, and some of them are found nowhere else in the world. They’re also the stars of a new ebook titled Caribbean Curiosities: Native Nature and the upcoming Endemic Animal Festival.

The free ebook tells six fascinating stories centered around different native animals, including bats, lizards, birds, fish and insects. It is illustrated with vibrant photos taken on the island. The ebook was written by Mark Yokoyama and released by the non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer. It can be downloaded from the Les Fruits de Mer website.

Les Fruits de Mer also produces the annual Endemic Animal Festival, an event celebrating the animals that are found only on St. Martin, or only in our region. This year’s event will be held at Amuseum Naturalis, St. Martin’s only natural history museum. In addition to the museum’s regular exhibits, there will be a variety of other attractions during the festival, including an Endemic Animal Discovery Station and wildlife-themed art activities. The free, all ages festival will be held on Sunday, April 23rd from 9am to 3pm.

To download Caribbean Curiosities: Native Nature and to learn more about the Endemic Animal Festival, visit lesfruitsdemer.com. Amuseum Naturalis is located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case in Grand Case and is open Tuesdays and Thursdays 4-8pm.

EAF Sponsor Spotlight: The Scuba Shop

We’re very happy to have The Scuba Shop as a sponsor for Endemic Animal Festival 2017! Founded in 1993, The Scuba Shop is conveniently located in Simpson Bay. They are the largest dive store in the Windward and Leeward islands and an long-time supporter of Les Fruits de Mer and the Endemic Animal Festival. Swing by for scuba or snorkeling gear, or to pick up their free snorkeling guide.
http://thescubashop.net

Also, the annual Underwater Easter Egg Hunt is coming up soon! Mark your calendars for Monday, April 17th!

EAF Sponsor Spotlight: IGY Marinas

igymarinas

We’re proud to have IGY Marinas as a sponsor of this year’s Endemic Animal Festival. We still have sponsorships available for this event, so please get in touch to help us create a great free and fun event!

IGY Marinas
IGY operates the award-winning marinas Isle de Sol and Simpson Bay Marina. Their marinas are ideally located in Simpson Bay, offering a full range of services and easy access to all the island has to offer. The Yacht Club at Isle de Sol was awarded the prestigious Blue Flag eco label in October of 2011, making St. Maarten the first country in the Dutch Caribbean to have a Blue Flag marina.
http://www.igymarinas.com

Caribbean Curiosities: Have Wings, Will Travel


Animals have developed the power of flight several times. The insects were the first to take to the skies, and they became the most diverse group of animals in the world. Feathered dinosaurs grew wings and became birds, surviving when the rest died out. A third group used flight to colonize St. Martin while their fellow mammals could not.

The Jamaican Fruit Bat.

Bats are St. Martin’s only native mammals. At least, they are the only ones alive today. Two prehistoric rodents lived on St. Martin, but they were long gone by the time recorded history began here. All other mammals on the island were brought by humans. This includes the wild ones—rat, mongoose, mongoose, raccoon, monkey—as well as our pets and farm animals.

Bats have used the power of flight to diversify, adopt many different lifestyles, and travel. There are over 1,000 species of bats in the world, and eight are found on St. Martin. Our bats pursue a variety of foods and make their homes in a variety of places.

The Velvety Free-tailed Bat eats insects and often lives beneath corrugated zinc roof sheets. It is a small bat, often seen in neighborhoods. It comes out around dusk to catch flying insects. To our benefit, mosquitos are often part of its dinner.

A mosquito-eating friend.

The Jamaican Fruit Bat and Antillean Cave Bat are larger, and they eat fruit. They are often seen around fruit trees at night, including almond, mango and palm trees. These bats nest in large groups in caves, especially the Grotte du Puits in the lowlands. The floor of the cave is covered in fruit pits brought back to the cave by the bats.

One of our most remarkable bats is the Fisherman Bat. This species uses echolocation to sense ripples made by fish on the surface of the water. Then it swoops down and grabs the fish with its large feet. Of course, all of this is done in complete darkness!

Bats have adapted to Caribbean islands, becoming new species along the way. The Antillean Cave Bat is found only in the Caribbean. The Lesser Antillean Tree Bat and Lesser Antillean Funnel-eared Bat are found only in the Lesser Antilles. The only mammals to fly, and our only native mammals, they have truly made the Caribbean their home.

You can learn more about St. Martin’s bats at Amuseum Naturalis, located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case. The museum is free and open 4-8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Get more info at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

EAF Sponsor Spotlight: Hotel L’Esplanade

Hotel L’Esplande is an Endemic Animal Festival sponsor this year. They’re a long-time supporter of Les Fruits de Mer and our events. We still have sponsorships available for this event, so please get in touch to help us create a great free and fun event!

Hotel L’Esplanade
This hotel has established a cult following from guests that enjoy an authentic, luxurious, unpretentious and un-touristy Caribbean experience with a homey feel. Acknowledged by TripAdvisor as one of the Caribbean’s “Best Hidden Gems”, and more recently named #19 of the top 25 hotels in all of the Caribbean. Hotel L’Esplanade has been a benefactor member since 2013 and has sponsored many Les Fruits de Mer events.
http://www.lesplanade.com

EAF Sponsor Spotlight: Tri-Sport

We’re thrilled to have Tri-Sport as an Endemic Animal Festival sponsor this year. They’re a returning sponsor from last year, and we’re proud to have their ongoing support. We still have sponsorships available for this event, so please get in touch to help us create a great free and fun event! Also, be sure to visit Tri-Sport!

About Tri-Sport
Tri-Sport is the go-to shop for the active community of St. Maarten/St. Martin and the neighboring islands of Anguilla, Saba, Statia, and St. Barths. They run ecologically-friendly tours that get people out and moving – kayaking, bicycling, hiking, boogie boarding, and snorkeling. Tri-Sport’s retail shops carry all the necessities for triathlons with an emphasis on bicycles.
http://trisportsxm.com