Restoring Caribbean Brown Pelican Habitat with SXM DOET
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Restoring Caribbean Brown Pelican Habitat with SXM DOET

Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation, in partnerships with Divi Little Bay Resort, held a successful presentation on pelicans and clean-up at Fort Amsterdam for SXM DOET. The objective was to raise awareness about protecting the habitat of the Caribbean Brown Pelican, St Maarten’s national bird. Photo: Nina Bijnsdorp Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) Foundation, in partnerships with Divi Little Bay Resort, held a successful presentation on pelicans and clean-up at Fort Amsterdam for SXM DOET. The objective was to raise awareness about protecting the habitat of the Caribbean Brown Pelican, St Maarten’s national bird. Photo: Nina Bijnsdorp

SINT MAARTEN (PHILIPSBURG) - On Friday 10th of March, 30 volunteers gathered early in the morning at Fort Amsterdam for a clean-up event organized as part of SXM DOET. After two hours, participants were proud of the large pile of trash collected, including car parts, beach chairs, cables and zinc debris left over from previous storms as well as bottles and parts of Styrofoam scattered in the dense vegetation. After the clean-up, participants gathered to listen to the EPIC team discuss the Caribbean brown pelican and the importance of its habitat. Ms. Margot Mesnard, EPIC pelican Project Coordinator said ‘’our monitoring over the last five months showed that there are only about 30 pelicans nesting at Fort Amsterdam, many raise just one chick per year and need to take care of the chick for several months. EPIC encourages everyone to protect their habitat from pollution while trying to reduce disturbance as much as possible to keep a healthy pelican population’’.

Coming together for SXM DOET

SXM DOET is the largest volunteer event in Sint Maarten and the kingdom, helping people join together to serve the community. EPIC took this opportunity to reach out to Divi Little Bay Resort, which immediately agreed to partner on this event with logistics and helping with a team of staff and tourists alike. ‘’I regularly participate in clean-ups around the island.’’ said Divi Little Bay Resort Manager Mrs. Anne-Marie Brooks, ‘’At Divi, we are always keen to find interested volunteers and help with any efforts to protect the site.’’ A full team of the National Recovery Public Bureau (NRPB) staff registered for the event, led by director Mr. Claret Connor and Director of Operations Mr. Abel Knottnerus. Abiding EPIC volunteer, and Member of Parliament, the Hon. Mrs. Sarah Wescott-Williams and her daughter joined efforts, working hard to remove debris from the rocky beach. A bin was donated courtesy of All Waste in Place N.V. to collect the pile of trash and debris.

A pelican project to monitor St Maarten’s brown pelican

EPIC’s Pelican Project started in November 2022 and runs until April 2023. The objective is to research the current status of the Caribbean brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis occidentalis) on Sint Maarten and promote conservation of its habitat through awareness raising and outreach activities. With the data collected, the long-term goal of this project is to improve management of natural resources for the preservation of biodiversity on Sint Maarten. A manual with findings of pelican monitoring and ecotoxicology analysis will be distributed to relevant stakeholders, also containing recommendations with best practices for management and protection of this iconic species. A permanent education sign about pelicans will be placed at Fort Amsterdam in the upcoming weeks and to date EPIC has reached over 350 children through primary school presentations. EPIC’s representative Rueben J. Thompson who participated in the clean-up noted that ‘’learning about our natural environment, cultural heritage and keeping our island clean is of major importance for future generations’’. This project is funded by the United Nations SPAW/RAC, Prins Bernhard Culture Fund, SXM DOET, and the Dutch representation in St Maarten.

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