Virgin Islands National Park

Virgin Islands National Park

Natural World

Virgin Islands National Park, renowned throughout the world for its breathtaking beauty, covers approximately half of St. John, as well as nearly all of Hassel Island in the Charlotte Amalie harbor on St. Thomas. Virgin Islands National Park contains examples of most western tropical Atlantic terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems. These include various types of subtropical dry to moist forest, salt ponds, beaches, mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs and algal plains. Terrestrial topography is quite dramatic with average slopes being 30 percent. The highest mountain peak plunges sharply to the sea over a distance of three quarters of a mile.

Within this protected paradise are sub-tropical forests, semi-arid scrublands, and swamps along the coastal areas. Some 800 species of plants inhabit these varied climates, including one native palm tree - the Teyer palm, along with bay rum trees and tropical orchids. More than 50 species of tropical birds breed on St. John, including the Bananaquit and three species of Caribbean hummingbirds. Other migrant species spend the winter in the park's dense forests.

Virgin Islands National Park is rich in natural resources. There are 140 species of birds, 302 species of fish, 7 species of amphibians, 22 species of mammals and 740 species of plants inhabiting the Island. In addition there are about 50 corals species and numerous gorgonians, and sponges providing St. Johnian's and visitors with some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world.

The only mammal native to St. John is the bat. Three of the six native species of bats are protected under the V.I. Endangered and Indigenous Species Act of 1990 (Act No. 5665) (Table 2). Some bat species are important pollinators of many floral species on the island as well as important seed dispersal agents for many species of fruit bearing trees and shrubs. Other species of bats consume vast quantities of insects, including mosquitoes.

Present day St. John does have many other species of animals that are not native to the island or even the tropics.  These include: deer, goats, sheep, donkeys, cats, dogs, mongoose and pigs.