The Daily Herald reports that the opening night of the eleventh annual “Sea and Learn” season held Tuesday, at the Breadline Plaza in Windwardside attracted the largest, most diverse crowd yet with an excellent evening programme that combined graceful and magical entertainment numbers with an intriguing lecture about Saba’s birds. The official opening speech was given by Acting Island Governor Franklyn Wilson, who is also the Saba representative for the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund, the important sponsor which made possible the implementation of youth involvement conservation programmes. Wilson stressed the transformative impact of the Sea and Learn seasons on the island’s attitude towards nature heritage conservation. “Saba Danza Cultural Group” made up of local youth, under the direction of Cuban dance instructor Bertha Aguilera Carvajal, performed a graceful dance to Tchaikovsky’s “waltz of the flowers.” The enchantment continued with a retired guest magician, Bob Guile, who has been coming to Saba for the past 15 years. He held an impressive show themed by the organisers as “making the world a better place with magic.” With a number of participants from the mesmerized spectators, Guile made unequal ropes become equal, set a banknote on fire, made it “travel through time” only to have it come out of a freshly cut orange. He transformed a $1 note into a $100 which was fortunate for the volunteer, but did not seem to work for the rest of the spectators. Young and old loved his performance.
Project leader Scott Kinyon, a vital volunteer among the organisers and the evening’s guitar player, next presented the work of establishing the Youth Environmental Leadership Program (YELP), an initiative that trains very young Sabans, sparking their curiosity in nature conservation and scientific research while also preparing them for related activities, like scuba diving. The young Saba participants are prepared by the volunteers to work side by side with the visiting researchers and conduct research experiments. The buddy system this group encourages succeeded to create excitement in the youth about science and conservation efforts. Through YELP, the youth received scuba diver open water diving adventure course and their PADI diplomas. YELP organiser Susan Hurrell from the Saba Conservation Foundation and Kinyon handed out the diplomas.
The evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Adrian Del Nevo is a returning lecturer on Saba and gave an extensive presentation on Saba’s most important bird populations, the Red-billed Tropicbird and the Audubon’s Shearwater, the national bird featured on the local coat of arms. The Red-billed Tropicbird and the White-tailed Tropicbird specific to Saba are believed to be under threat with the latter believed to be extinct as it has not been seen in recent years. The island is extremely significant for the survival of the worldwide population of Tropicbirds, with the entire coastline of the island being declared internationally as “Important Bird Area ABA by Bird-Life International. It is believed that the island hosts between 1,200 and 1,500 tropicbird pairs, making it the host of about 15 per cent of the species’ worldwide population.
Del Nevo showcased the various research attempts conducted on the island to gauge the sustainability of the local bird population, feeding patterns and natural predators. There are sombre statistical results about the survival rate of hatchlings into adults and the study still has to determine the combination of threats that lead to this outcome, and how Saba can address it. To portray the feeding challenge, between the Tropicbirds of Saba and those of Statia, Del Nevo had an entertaining simulation played by very young volunteers in the role of nesting birds feeding their young chicks played by adult volunteers.