Nearly 300 people learned about the animals that live only on St. Martin at the fifth annual Endemic Animal Festival on Sunday. They were welcomed by over 30 volunteers and experts sharing diverse topics like nature in St. Martin literature, sharks, iguanas, native plants and animals, stone walls and local building traditions. The event was hosted by the Les Fruits de Mer association at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House in French Quarter.
“We were thrilled to see so many people having fun and discovering this island’s unique animals!” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “This was our first public event at Amuseum Naturalis at The Old House. We’re working with the community to make this a place where many voices share what is special about St. Martin. So we were also really excited to invite local experts to present. They used this year’s theme—Made Here—to connect local wildlife to many other parts of local heritage.”
Local experts shared on seven fascinating topics at this year’s festival. Tadzio Bervoets and the St. Maarten Nature Foundation presented about the island’s sharks. Author and publisher Lasana M. Sekou prepared selections of local poetry and writing about nature for display. Christophe Henocq highlighted historic stone walls as a unique habitat for plants and animals. Laura Bijnsdorp and EPIC presented on how local plants help protect the island. Bird specialist Binkie van Es led fun activities from the BirdSleuth Caribbean program. The Anguilla National Trust shared their work to save rare iguanas on Anguilla, which used to live on St. Martin. Mark Yokoyama showcased St. Martin’s endemic animals.
Kids and adults enjoyed several animal-themed arts and crafts, including making iguana masks and hand-painting wildlife bags. Guests also learned about Plantilles, the heritage plant program getting started on the grounds of Amuseum Naturalis. The project includes community gardens, a native plants nursery and a bush tea garden.
This year’s festival was the first chance in several years for the public to see the historic Old House in French Quarter. It will be the new home of free nature museum Amuseum Naturalis, which is moving there after two years in Grand Case. Over 100 volunteers have helped prepare the property since the beginning of the year. Les Fruits de Mer hosts regular volunteer events on weekends, and welcomes everyone to get involved. The association is hoping to relaunch the museum itself later this year.
The Endemic Animal Festival was free to the public. This was made possible by the festival sponsors: BirdsCaribbean, Delta Petroleum, Happy Wine, Location De Bennes Diligence Express, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar and Tri-Sport. Visit lesfruitsdemer.com to learn more about Les Fruits de Mer, the festival, volunteering and future activities. The public is invited to join the association and take part in creating Amuseum Naturalis and Plantilles for the island.