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Island Nature

Our island’s natural environment

There is perhaps no other spot in the whole world which geographically presents so great an interest to the naturalist as St Helena.{j}

As if being a beautiful sub-tropical island paradise is not enough, our natural environment has many interesting aspects

Some of them are mentioned here. If there is something about St Helena’s natural environment that we have not covered please contact us and we’ll try to add it in.

SEE ALSO: Many of our endemic species can be found in our National Conservation Areas.

The Island Nature Pages

… or you could just get a drink at a seaside bar and enjoy the sunset.

Butterflies

We don’t discuss the island’s butterflies anywhere else so here is an introduction published in our newspapers by the St Helena National Trust.

Animals Farmed

The following are the principal animals farmed on St Helena (in alphabetic order):

Bees

See our page Bees and Beekeeping.

Cattle

For meat only. Supply does not meet demand and beef and beef-products are imported. Dairy cattle are not farmed. Milk and milk-products are always imported.

Chickens

For eggs only; breeds raised are not suitable for eating and are not (generally) eaten. Supply does not meet demand and eggs and chicken-products are imported. See also our page Birds.

Ducks

A few country families raise ducks, both for eggs and for eating. Supply does not meet demand and duck-products are imported (but not duck eggs). See also our page Birds.

Geese

A few country families raise geese, both for eggs and for eating. Supply does not meet demand and goose-products are imported (though rarely). See also our page Birds.

Goats

Not farmed commercially; many country families keep a few goats. Supply generally meets demand and goat-products are rarely imported. Goats are not milked. Goat-milk-products are always imported. See also our page Endemic Species.

Pigs

Pigs are bred both commercially and domestically; many country families raise a pig for Christmas. Supply does not meet demand and pork and pork-products are imported.

Sheep

For meat only. Wool is not collected in volume. Supply does not meet demand and sheep-products are imported, including wool. Sheep milk is not collected. Sheep-milk-products are always imported.

Unwanted

Brahminy Blind Snake
Brahminy Blind Snake{k}

On 6th June 2023 a snake was discovered on St Helena - the first recorded instance. Resembling a long black worm, St Helena Bio Security Officers identified the animal as a Brahminy Blind Snake (Indotyphlops braminus). Measuring just 10cm long and 2mm wide, this type of snake is commonly known as a flowerpot snake, found mostly in soil and compost. It is non-venomous and spends most of its time underground in loose soil and moist leaves. Its diet mainly consists of the larvae, eggs and pupae of ants and termites. It was dead-on-arrival, having (presumably) stowed away in a container and died during the voyage from Africa.

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Below: Article: How to spend seven days exploring the nature-filled island of St HelenaTropic-birdEdible Plants

Article: How to spend seven days exploring the nature-filled island of St Helena

By Emma Thompson, published on www.nationalgeographic.co.uk, 8th November 2022{1}

Moments of seclusion, vast stretches of lush landscapes and wildlife found nowhere else on the planet all go hand in hand in St Helena. Here’s how to spend a week making the most of this South Atlantic island.

An emerald fleck floating in the blue orbit of the South Atlantic Ocean, St Helena is one of the most isolated islands on Earth and serves up an unmatchable mix of raw nature and a laidback dose of old-style Britannia. Finally unlocked after the pandemic, the British Territory offers that rare thing: a chance to remember the sweet silence of life without the tring of mobile phones and glare of white screens. A place where keys are left in car ignitions, the dramas of rolling 24/7 news seem a world away and people still greet each other in the street. A place where days can be spent tracing rugged walking trails, meeting the world’s oldest living land creature and snorkelling with leviathans. A stress-free escape where even the locals - the descendants of settlers, soldiers and slaves - are nicknamed ‘Saints.’ Come to unplug and reconnect with wildlife found nowhere else on the planet.

Day one-two: hiking and walking

Criss-crossing the island’s mist-laced peaks and fields of swaying flax are 11 footpaths and 21 Post Box Walks, each of which concludes with a box containing a collectable ink stamp that visitors like to mark in small notebooks. Distances range from a gentle one-mile stroll to a 3.5-hour, seven-mile hike. Favourites include ascending though the cloud forest to Diana’s Peak, St Helena’s highest point, or the challenging trek out to The Barn, a volcanic bluff. Other unmissables are the Heart Shaped Waterfall, Longwood’s rainbow-hued hills and the phallic wind-hewn pinnacle known saucily as Lot’s Wife. Alternatively, pit your calves and lungs against Jacob’s Ladder, a flight of 699 steps - nicknamed after the biblical stairway to heaven - scaling the western slope of Jamestown’s deep valley and all that remains of a cable railway built in the 1800s.

Day three: endemic wildlife

Ever since St Helena erupted from the sea some 13 million years ago, it’s been totally isolated and as such is home to more than 500 species found nowhere else on Earth. Peel back ferns and study black cabbage trees on Diana’s Peak to spot blushing snails and golden sails - one of 22 endemic types of spider. Spy the long-limbed endangered St Helena plover, or wirebird - the island’s only surviving endemic land bird - emerging from burrows amid the dry pastures of Deadwood Plain, and meet the world’s oldest living land animal, Jonathan, a 190-year-old Seychelles giant tortoise who’s grazed the grounds surrounding Plantation House, the governor’s residence, since 1882.

Day four: culture and cuisine

Here, friendliness is a vital part of island life. Drivers wave to every car that passes and islanders send messages to each other via SaintFM. Their seclusion brings quirks, too. Stroll down Jamestown’s high street and you’ll hear musical ‘Saint speak,’ a South Atlantic English patois where locals don’t ask ‘How are you?’ but rather ‘Wa now you awrigh?’ Isolation has inspired invention. When food imports are delayed, Saints have learned to rustle up unique local delicacies. Try the beloved bread and dance, tomato-paste sandwich, and comforting plo, a one-pot curried meat, vegetable and rice dish. Locals also grow and brew the world’s most remote coffee - keep an eye out for the Midnight Mist Coffee Liqueur, made with beans grown on the island.

Day five: Napoleon

Trace the final years of St Helena’s most infamous resident: French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Exiled here in 1815 by the British government following his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon spent his days under house arrest inside elegant Longwood House, in the eastern inlands, until he drew his last breath in 1821. Rumour has it his demise was hastened by the house’s arsenic-laced green wallpaper. Afterwards, a farmer used the emperor’s bedroom to house sheep, but the property was sold back to the French government in 1858 and subsequently restored. Visit the gardens he designed, the billiards table he spread maps on and his canopy-cloaked bedroom. Nearby, stands his modest iron railing-guarded tomb.

Day six: underwater adventures

Book with either Dive Saint Helena or Sub-Tropic Adventures and submerge yourself in the fecund waters surrounding the island. St Helena’s volcanic base pushes up a lifeline of nutrients from the deep, attracting a riot of marine life. Between June and December, migratory humpback whales pass through, pausing to calve in July. Visitors also include bottlenose, pantropical spotted and rough-toothed dolphins as well as green and hawksbill turtles, while the rocky, wreck-strewn reefs shelter 10 species of endemic fish, including the bastard fivefinger and St Helena dragonet.

Day seven: Dark Skies

Come nightfall, lay beneath St Helena’s incredibly sparkly skies. More than 1,000 miles from the nearest major landmass and with a total of just 4,400 inhabitants, there’s virtually zero light pollution and the island’s location near the Equator means constellations belonging to both the northern and southern hemispheres, such as the Plough and the Southern Cross, can be seen. St Helena is in the process of applying for International Dark-Sky Association status and early measurements suggest the island’s night skies are significantly darker than Sark, the first island in the world to be accredited.

More information

For more information, visit sthelenatourism.com

This content is brought to you by St Helena Tourism. It does not necessarily reflect the views of National Geographic, National Geographic Traveller (UK) or its editorial staff.

Our Comment: See our own page What To Do for our Top 20 Things To Do.

Tropic-bird

Extract from ‘Views of St Helena’, by G.W. Melliss{2}, published in 1857{1}

Trophy/Tropic Bird

P. setliereus, Linn. - Tropic-bird. Very abundant on the southern and eastern, or windward coasts of the Island, which, being furthest away from the haunts of man and also more precipitous than other parts, are well adapted to the bird’s peculiar habit of dropping itself down from a ledge in order to enable it to rise on the wing, a feat which it is unable to accomplish when sitting on the ground. It inhabits holes in the perpendicular face of the cliffs, from one to two thousand feet above the sea, and goes out regularly in the early morning to fish for food, returning homewards about three or four o’clock in the afternoon. At this time of the day Tropic-birds are easily shot; and it is to be regretted that these beautiful and peaceful creatures suffer so much persecution as they do for the sake of the plumes they afford for ladies’ hats. Tropic-bird-shooting at St. Helena is accomplished by taking up a position on the ledges above their holes and nests, while a boy is sent down into the valley or ravine below to pick up the birds as they fall. Cats are great enemies to these birds, as well as to the gamebirds in the Island, by preying on the young.

Edible Plants

LOL

Credits:
{a} Copyright © South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS), used with permission.{b} Stedson Stroud{c} St Helena National Trust{d} Tourist Information Office{e} Ed Thorpe{f} National Geographic Magazine{g} Emma Weaver{h} The BBC.{i} CKW Photography{j} ‘St Helena: A Physical, Historical and Topographical Description of the Island{3}{k} Copyright © South Atlantic Media Services Ltd. (SAMS), used with permission.

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Footnotes:
{1} @@RepDis@@{2} Father of John Melliss.{3} …including the Geology, Fauna, Flora and Meteorology, by John Melliss, published in 1875.

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