SANDY CAY HABITAT MANAGEMENT AREA
Since 2005, JVDPS has been involved in a co-management agreement to help care for the adjacent 14 acre “Sandy Cay Habitat Management Area.” Through a contractual arrangement, JVDPS oversees a local caretaker based in Little Harbour, Jost Van Dyke to carry out maintenance and caretaking, post invasive species eradication monitoring and data collection. Jost Van Dyke’s close proximity to Sandy Cay make this an excellent arrangement. Winter swells sometimes make landing on the island difficult. By using a caretaker based on Jost Van Dyke instead of in Road Town, Tortola (where national authorities are based), it ensures a wise use of personnel hours. Our caretaker simply looks out his window and determines whether or not a landing is possible!
One of the Virgin Island’s most picturesque small cays, the island was formerly the property of noted conservationist Laurance Rockefeller, who is responsible for helping to establish the Virgin Islands National Park in nearby St. John, USVI.
For decades, the Rockefeller Estate privately managed Sandy Cay as an uninhabited island to be enjoyed by the public as an undeveloped space. In 2008, the site was gifted to the Government of the Virgin Islands and was officially designated as the BVI’s newest national park.
The island was the site of a successful Black Rat Eradication carried out by Island Resources Foundation (IRF) in partnership with the BVI National Parks Trust. Like many other introduced non-native animals, the Black Rat is an incredibly destructive force when introduced to a small island ecosystem. Opportunistic feeders with voracious appetites, these animals can destroy bird colonies, as well as lizards, frogs, snakes and other animals.
GREAT TOBAGO NATIONAL PARK
Located to the West of Jost Van Dyke, Great Tobago Islandis also home to one of the most iconic of Virgin Islands Seabirds, the Magnificent Frigatebird. Approximately 900 pairs of frigatebirds nest on this island, making it one of the largest colonies in the Caribbean. Frigatebirds are impressive animals that perform acrobatic feats in the air and have a giant 7-8 foot wingspan. Unable to get their feathers wet (no waterproofing and ability to dive for fish like Pelicans, boobies and other seabirds), frigatebirds, known locally as “Man O’ War” drink, eat and gather materials on the wing. This means they often race at food on the waters surface. Many times, this means that the birds will accidentally dive for a fishing lure. Once hooked, the entangled bird and angler are both very upset with the flury of activity. Many times this means that the fisherman may cut the line to release the bird. The bird, still hooked, trails this line back to the colony where it becomes further entangled in trees. Monofilament fishing line is invisible and many more birds fly into and become entangled in the line.
In summer of 2011, JVDPS staff and volunteers cut down 60 dead frigatebirds! In partnership with BVI National Parks Trust, JVDPS has implemented a simple monitoring programme, and makes periodic visits to the island to cut down monofilament line and complete a count of nests. In late 2012 JVDPS was part of a successful Darwin Initiative PLUS grant with the University of Liverpool and will begin GPS tracking seabirds to help better understand the birds’ foraging behaviour.
GREEN ISLAND AND SANDY SPIT
Located off the eastern edge of Jost Van Dyke, 14 acre Green Island and .5 acre Sandy Spit have purchased by the Government of the Virgin Islands and are part of a proposed Marine Protected Area under the BVI National Parks System Plan.
JVDPS makes periodic visits to the cay to carry out plant and animal surveys, collect garbage and to encourage local stewardship through field trips with local youth.
JVDPS hopes that Green Island will eventually be the site of another rat eradication. As compared to invasive species-free Sandy Cay, Green Island has less than half the bio-diversity. That is to say there are twice as many lizards, plants, birds and other animals.
For more information about the island’s history and ecology, please open the comprehensive JVD Environmental Profile.