Despite the small size of the island, in the 17th and 18th centuries there were more than 70 plantations, worked intensively by slaves. As a result, most of the original forest has disappeared except in the most inhospitable parts of the volcano.
Nevertheless there are 17 different kinds of orchid and 58 species of birds, of which 25 are resident and breeding, 21 migrants from North America and 12 seabirds. The harmless racer snake is found here, as on Saba, and there are iguanas, land crabs, tree frogs and lots of butterflies. Unfortunately there are lots of goats too, which eat everything in sight.
STENAPA, the St Eustatius National Parks Foundation, was founded in 1996. This organization is responsible for the marine park, The Quill, Boven, Gilboa Hill, Signal Hill and Little Mountain. These areas and portions of The Quill, above 250 m, are now protected.
In 1998 The Quill was declared a national park, consisting of the volcano and the limestone White Wall to its south. The Quill is protected from the 250 m line, but the White Wall is protected down to the high water line. STENAPA has developed the 14-acre Miriam C Schmidt Botanical Garden on the southeast side of The Quill in the area called ‘Behind the Mountain’. There is a picnic pavilion, barbecue areas, marked trails, a bee yard and orchid gardens.
At the crater of The Quill there are many species usually found in tropical rain forest: huge tree ferns; mahogany; giant elephant ears; begonias; figs; plantains; bromeliads; the balsam tree and many more. The southern slope of the mountain has not been fully explored by botanists. In the future STENAPA hopes to attract scientists to study plants, animals and marine life. Recently experts have been on the island to study the endangered iguanas and the rare racer snake.
The Antilles Iguana (Iguana delicatissima) is rare and threatened. The young and females vary from bright green to dull grey, while the large males can be nearly black. The population is stronger here than on neighboring islands because the mongoose was never introduced here. Neither was the Green Iguana, with which it has interbred on some islands. They are now protected by law and human consumption is no longer allowed. The Red-bellied Racer (Alsophis rufiventris) is a small snake found only on Statia and Saba. It is brown with black markings on its back and a pink belly. It is not poisonous and kills its prey (small reptiles, baby rats) by strangulation.