Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Critters On St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Thomas has a number of roads that are kind of tricky to drive with steep hills, narrow passages and pot holes. Combine that with a fair number of Iguanas, chickens, sheep, goats, cats, dogs, mongoose, and an occasional cow and there is, unfortunately, considerable road kill. Some drivers are fairly considerate and will, if they can, stop to allow animals safe passage across the roads. I can recall seeing taxis loaded with tourists waiting for a hen with her chicks to cross a busy road.
The other day I left my home headed down town on a road that is not particularly rough. As I approached a straightaway I saw something in the road that initially appeared to be moving in a very awkward manner, almost as if it had been injured. I slowed to see what it was. I quickly realized it was not injured at all but a Red-Footed Tortoise making it's way across the road. This reptile is protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means it can not be exported from it's home country without permits. I put my flashers on, stopped the car and got out. I knew if I simply drove around it, I would probably see it in the road, crushed. So I picked up the tortoise and moved him to the other side of the road.
Surprisingly, he did not withdraw completely into his shell. He was quite beautiful with the distinctive shell and the red spots on his feet were quite pronounced. I have seen these tortoises in people's homes as pets, wild on Water Island but this was the first I had seen, wild, on St. Thomas.
As I returned home later, I checked the road to see if he had continued on his way or turned back and not survived the return trip. I was pleased to see he was safe, at least for the day.