As part of the project Conservation of Key Offshore Island Reserves, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) is committed to teaching younger generations about biodiversity issues in the Grenadines, especially seabirds and their role in the marine ecosystem. On the 21st and 22nd of November 2019, Project Coordinator/Seabird Biologist Juliana Coffey gave two presentations at the Petite Martinique Roman Catholic Primary School, accompanied by Project Assistant Quincy Augustine of Grenada and Seabird Monitor/Captain Vaughn Thomas of Carriacou. Additional community members joined the group to learn about this topic of local concern.
The students were particularly attentive and engaged, expressing amazement at the unique features and abilities seabirds possess, for example, having webbed feet, waterproof feathers and raising only one chick per year. They were also astonished to see how well seabirds are able to cope with the everyday struggles of survival, such as being able to drink saltwater and migrate astonishing distances. They listened as elders discussed how they use certain seabirds to find fish and to understand weather patterns. Upon learning that most seabirds mate for life, one adult present exclaimed “I didn’t know before that seabirds have their soulmates!”.
The facial expressions and excitement of the children when shown videos of seabirds swimming to great depths in order to catch fish was a joy to see. They were most impressed by seeing clips of seabirds “flying” underwater amongst other top predators, such as sharks and whales. They were also able to recognize the common local seabirds around their island using local names, and even to mimic the calls the seabirds made.
However, the students expressed concern when they heard of the tremendous challenges seabirds face on a day to day basis, in the air, on the land and in the sea, and that there are less seabirds than there used to be. Among those threats, egg poaching and fires set by people created a stir among the students, with one questioning as to why people would do such a thing. When asked how we can protect seabirds in the region, they discussed protecting seabird habitat, stop polluting the oceans and not to harvest seabirds, their chicks and eggs anymore.
In closing, the principal of the school urged each student to make it their duty to save seabirds and encouraged them to educate their family members of how important seabirds are to our environment and even our daily survival. He advised the students that although they are still young, someday they will have children and grandchildren who should have the opportunity to see seabirds in the future. Students were also informed of the many great careers they can have that involve seabirds, such as fisherfolk, biologist, sailor, and tour operator, and provided with seabird identification cards, book and posters for further education.
To learn more about this project please contact Juliana Coffey, Project Coordinator and at firstname.lastname@example.org, on WhatsApp 1-709-770-6877 or phone 1-473-422-9547.
This project is made possible through funding from USAID and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.