photo: Saba Conservation Foundation

THE BOTTOM – About 60 percent of Saba’s nature in general was devastated as a result of the recent hurricane Irma. According to Kai Wulf, Park Manager at the Saba Conservation Foundation, the top priorities of the foundation and it’s team of volunteers are clearing the hiking trails and combating further damage by invasive to the land and sea.

“Of course it looks really really bad right now, but we are looking to the future very positive. Nature has over the centuries learned to cope with such events, so sooner or later the nature will come back. Sometimes these events also act as a renewal,” said Wulf of the state of nature on the island.

According to Park Ranger James Johnson, hurricane Irma was worse than Hurricane Lenny of 1998, which completely destroyed the rain forest. “Once we can get rain, you will see it come back full again. Probably within 3 months we will have all the trails reopened again,” he reassured.

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By Hazel Durand

Mahogany trees damaged
Most of the trees in the forest have lost their foliage. “We can try to save some of the trees, but they need to be properly pruned. We can’t leave them as they are right now because they will die. So hopefully with pruning some of the trees we can try to save them and also prevent them from becoming infected by disease,” Wulf explained.

“In 1998 Hurricane Lenny destroyed all the tall mahogany trees. But basically it was a natural cycle. The forest at that time was nearly 400 years old, this event actually helped to accelerate renewal of the forest. I’m very positive that nature will find its way to regrow.”

Volunteers help clean the trails. Photo: Hazel Durand

Bird life in stress
Wulf said there are ways the local community can help nature regain its natural course. “Of course we can help, for example bird life which already is under a lot of stress, because of invasive predators (cats, rats) they are in decline. They are out of food sources at the moment, so what we can do is put up bird feeders.”

These bird feeders are usually sold by the Saba Conservation Foundation, however at the moment they are being given away free of cost to encourage the community to help feed the birds.

Dive nurseries weakened
Wulf said some of the core dive nurseries have been severely damaged. The priority is to get the key dive nurseries back up. “We want to try to combat further damage by invasive, so we would like to get our lion fish program back up as soon as possible.”

“We want to buy lion fish traps to more actively remove them from the reefs. They do have a tremendous impact especially during the recovery times. If you don’t have those little feeders or fish who feed on algae for example, that could have an additional impact.”

The future
“There is certainly no way to deny that we are in a climate change. We have to prepare our self for more severe storms in the next decades,” Kai warned.

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By Hazel Durand

Wulf said what the outside world can do to support Saba is, “not cancel their plans. They should come to the island if they love the island that much. Even though everything will not be perfectly back up, but to keep our economy going this helps everybody. We rely on fees from tourists. If there are no dive fees or nature fees we would not be able to operate either. So everything is totally interlinked.”