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Unique Flora & Fauna

Orchids and bromeliads

paarse orchideeSeveral species of orchids and bromeliads can be found in the park. The Bromelia lasiantha, a ground growing plant is well known for its pink flowers in a bright red heart. The  leaves grow in a rosette and bear sharp thorns. Other bromeliads include the “Barba di kadushi” and the “teku di palu”. Which grow in trees and cacti.

Two species of orchids are widely spread through the park; the white Brassavola nodosa, which blooms mostly in December an January and the purple Myrmecophila humboldtia which has its blooming peak in July and August.

 

 

Lichens

baardmosThese organisms, which are a symbiotic relation between a fungus and algae, grow in the southern part of the park. They thrive there because the humidity of the air on the ridge is slightly higher that at sea level due to the enforced ascend of the easterly winds. These organisms only grow in places where the air is still pure, and as such air pollution is not a factor.

 

 

 

Flowering plants

flaira-bewerktThe rainy season is the perfect moment to enjoy the large amount of flowers which decorate the trails and routes in the park. Especially the bright orange flowers of the Yellow Sage (Lantana camara) and the pink-purple flowers of the Morning Glory (Ipomoea incarnata) live up the park with their bright colors and big flowers. But it’s the small flowers of the other plants that give interesting insight in the ecology of Curaçao’s flora.

 

 

 

Reptiles

kolebraThe best known species of reptile on the island is the Green Iguana. The green-greyish animal speaks to the imagnation of many people. However it is not the only species of reptile you will find in the park. Whiptail lizards can be seen on every trail and sunning on the car routes throughout the day. The elusive whipsnake can be spotted relatively often on the mountain trail. These snakes are not poisonous and not aggressive. The anolis species Anolis lineatus  is abundant in the park and easy to recognize by the bright orange/yellow colored dewlap. Other species of reptile also exist in the park but are mostly nocturnal.

 

 

Mammals

konijnThe white tailed deer is the largest mammal living in the park. Its population numbers is unknown but scientists calculate their numbers to be about 250 individuals. Curaçao is one of two islands in the Caribbean that have this type of deer, Isla de Margarita being the other. The deer on Curaçao is a endemic subspecies, different in appearance and in beahviour from the species on the main land.
Other mammals in the park include the Cottontail, family of rabbits and hares, and several species of bats.

 

 

 

Birds

trupialMore than 168 bird species have been recorded from Curaçao. At least 51 are breeding birds, 71 are migrants from North America, 19 are visitors from South America and 19 are seabirds. Two subspecies of birds are restricted to Curaçao, namely, the Parakeet Aratinga pertinax pertinax and the Barn Owl, Tyto alba bargei. Fourteen other birds are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles (and nearby Venezuelan islands) at subspecies level. Endangered breeding birds include the Barn Owl, the Caracara, Polyborus plancus, the White-tailed Hawk, Buteo albicaudatus, the Scaly-naped Pigeon, Columba squamosa, and several species of tern.

 

 

 

Land snails

Land snailsA total of 26 land and freshwater molluscs have been reported, two of which are endemic to Curaçao (Guppya molengraaffi, Tudora rupis) and six of which are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles and adjacent Venezuelan islands (Brachipodella raveni, Cerion uva, Cistulops raveni, Gastrocopta octonaria, Microceramus banairiensis, Tudora megacheilos). Most species are associated with calcareous geological formations and several show significant morphological shell variation between different parts of the island.

 

 

 

Flora

teku-di-mondiThe vegetation of the island is characterised by its adaptation to the dry and windy climatic conditions.
Total vascular flora amounts to about 450 species. Species composition differs significantly between the different geological formations and Stoffers described a dozen different
vegetation types for the island. Vegetation’s of the Curaçao Lava Formation are characterised as largely deciduous vegetation’s in which trees such as Bursera bonairiensis, Bourreria
succulenta
, Caesalpinia coriaria, Cordia alba, Hematoxylon brasiletto, Randia aculeata and Malpighia glabra are common.

The vegetation’s of calcareous formations are largely characterised as evergreen formations with such trees as Bumelia obovata, Casearia tremulans, Coccoloba swartsii, Condalia
henriquezii, Guayacum sanctum
and Metopium brownei.

Columnar cacti (part. Stenocereus griseus, and Subpilocereus repandus) play a prominent role in both deciduous and evergreen formations.

The most common species of disturbed areas are the thorny tree Acacia tortuosa, the grass Aristida adscencionis, the shrub Croton flavens, the prickly pear Opuntia wentiana and
the introduced rubber vine Cryptostegia grandiflora.

Recent work indicates that the impact of centuries of uncontrolled grazing by livestock on the species composition of the vegetation of the island, has been large.

 

Mammals
deer-grassA total of 11 native mammals are found on Curaçao. These are the Curaçao White-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus curassavicus, the mouse Baiomys hummelincki, the cotton-tail Silvilagus floridensis nigronuchalis and eight species of bats.

The deer, the cotton-tail and four species of bats are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles at the subspecies level, while the mouse Baiomys is endemic at species level. The deer and all bats are endangered species. Recent work has shown the key role that nectivorous bats play in the terrestrial ecosystem as the only principal pollinators of columnar cacti which are a key food source for many species during dry periods.

 

 

Land snails
Land snailsA total of 26 land and freshwater molluscs have been reported, two of which are endemic to Curaçao (Guppya molengraaffi, Tudora rupis) and six of which are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles and adjacent Venezuelan islands (Brachipodella raveni, Cerion uva, Cistulops raveni, Gastrocopta octonaria, Microceramus banairiensis, Tudora megacheilos).

Most species are associated with calcareous geological formations and several show significant morphological shell variation between different parts of the island.

 

 

 

Avifauna
kolibriMore than a 168 bird species have been recorded from Curaçao. At least 51 are breeding birds, 71 are migrants from North America, 19 are visitors from South America and 19 are seabirds.

Two subspecies of birds are restricted to Curaçao, namely, the Parakeet Aratinga pertinax pertinax and the Barn Owl, Tyto alba bargei. Fourteen other birds are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles (and nearby Venezuelan islands) at subspecies level.

Endangered breeding birds include the Barn Owl, the Caracara, Polyborus plancus, the White-tailed Hawk, Buteo albicaudatus, the Scaly-naped Pigeon, Columba squamosa, and several species of tern (Sterna spp.).

 

Reptiles
iguanaNine species of native reptiles are found on Curaçao, two of which are snakes and seven of which are lizards. Of these latter, four are endemic to the Leeward Dutch Antilles at species level. These are Anolis lineatus, Cnemidophorus murinus, Gymnodactylus antillensis, and Phyllodactylus martini.

Four types of sea turtles are common in our waters: the Green Turtle, the Hawksbil turtle, the Loggerhead and the Leatherback turtle. The first three mentioned also make use of our beaches to lay their eggs. A few small beaches located at the protected area Shete Boka Park are regularly being used by turtles.

 

Unique Geology

Unique GeologyThe northern route in the park has beautiful examples of one of the youngest geological formations of the island, namely the limestone formations, former reefs which are now elevated above sea level.
If the hills you see have a greyish color and look flat, you can be positive that you are looking at a limestone formation.

The geological history of the island of Curacao began in the late Cretaceous period, about 90 million years ago, still within the age of the dinosaurs.
No fossil remains of these giants can be found on the island, though, because at that time a 5 kilometer deep ocean marked the position of the Island to be.

Since then, a multitude of processes have shaped and re-shaped the foundations beneath our feet, processes that are ongoing as you read this.

The island as we know it is basically a snapshot in geological time. 4 distinct rock groups represent the geological structure of the island. The oldest two are well represented within the park boundaries:

  • Tthe Curacao Lava Formation

This unit consists, as the name already implies, of volcanic rocks. Although at most outcrops these rocks are badly weathered, a remarkable feature found within the rocks are pillowshaped structures. Hence these rocks are also known as pillow-lava’s or pillow-basalts.

  • The Knip Group

This group overlies the volcanic sequence, hence is a little younger. The significant difference  in appearance with the older volcanic rocks is the distinct layering. This is the characteristic of sedimentary rocks.

Analysis of these rocks has shown that they consist of microscopic remains of marine creatures. These so called radiolarians live a planktonic life (they let the ocean currents lead them) and create small skeletons of silica.

This in contrast to lots of other marine creatures that use calcium carbonate (lime) as their building material of choice. Silica is tremendously hard which is reflected by the fact that all the higher hills within the park,  including the Christoffel mountain, consist of these skeletal remains.

The northern route in the park has beautiful examples of one of the youngest geological formations of the island, namely the limestone formations, former reefs which are now elevated above sea level. If the hills you see have a grayish color and look flat, you can be positive that you are looking at a limestone formation.

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