One of the most striking members of the feline family is the tiger, who sports a beautiful red-gold coat with distinctive black stripes, covering an incredibly powerful muscular body.

The tiger is the largest member of the cat family. There are six subspecies living in pockets of forest in Asia. In the largest subspecies, the Siberian, males can weigh up to 300 kg. Males from the smallest subspecies, the Sumatran, will weigh in at tops 140 kg. Females are smaller than males.

Their golden-red fur is covered with vertical black stripes. Each tiger has its own personal unique pattern. The stripes help camouflage the tigers as they prowl in the forest. Under their jaw, on their face and on their belly, they have patches and stripes of white fur. They have yellow eyes and a pink nose. Coarse white whiskers grow on either side of their face. Their ears are rounded, and each ear has a white circle at the back with a black dot in the middle resembling an extra pair of eyes. White tigers are rare – just one out of every 10,000 is born in the wild.

Tigers are fearsome predators. They are meat-eaters and hunt mainly medium- to large-sized animals, such as deer, wild boar and water buffalo; though they will hunt smaller animals if necessary. They can go without food for up to two weeks and will then gorge on a large meal. They can eat 40 kg of meat in one sitting!

Tigers hunt by sneaking up on their prey, ambushing it with a giant leap, knocking it over with their great weight and then grabbing it by the throat with their powerful jaws and long sharp teeth.

Unusually among cats, the tiger is a great swimmer. They can swim up to 29 km a day, and can cross wide, fast-flowing rivers. They enjoy bathing in water to cool down. They have also been known to hunt in water.

Tigers are generally solitary animals, except for mothers and their young. Tiger cubs develop inside their mom for just over three months. They are born in a den, for example, inside a cave or a tree hollow. Two to four cubs are born in each litter. They are born blind and are completely helpless at first. They nurse from their mother for the first three to six months. Once they are weaned, they start to leave the den with their mother and she teaches them to hunt. They are independent at 18 months but will stay with their family until they are over two years old.

Tigers are endangered animals. They have lost most of their habitat and have been hunted for their beautiful fur.

Some good news: World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) estimated last year that there are 3,890 wild tigers, up from 3,200 in 2010. This is the first increase in tiger numbers in a century! WWF is working to double the number of tigers in the wild by 2022, which will be the Year of the Tiger.

Most pilots are trained to avoid bad weather, skirting their planes around storms. The brave pilots and crew of “Hurricane Hunters” do completely the opposite. They literally fly directly into the eye of hurricanes to gather information for the weather forecasters of the National Hurricane Center (NHC). In doing so, they help keep everyone in hurricane-prone areas safe.

Satellites, as high-tech as they are, cannot provide all the data forecasters need, such as accurate wind speed and the interior barometric pressure of a hurricane, and this is where “Hurricane Hunters” comes in. It is estimated that the data the group collects improves the accuracy of forecasts by up to 30 percent!

The official name of “Hurricane Hunters” is “Air Force Reserve 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron.” Part of the United States Navy, the group is based in Mississippi and is responsible for the area that stretches from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the islands of Hawaii. From September to July, they set up a base in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands. Equipment is moved there at the start of the season and they only have to send in the aircraft and crew when a storm develops in the Atlantic.

They use the sturdy, reliable propeller aircraft, the WC-130J Super Hercules, to fly into the storms. The planes are fitted out with a computer with a special weather program that sends the data collected from the plane’s sensors instantly by satellite to the NHC weather forecasters. The forecasters there plug the information into their supercomputers to prepare forecasts for the storms.

Each plane has a crew of five – the pilot (who is the commander in charge), the co-pilot, a navigator, a weather officer and a weather loadmaster. The loadmaster is in charge of making sure all the equipment and crew are loaded safely on board.

When a storm appears to be forming, the NHC sends in Hurricane Hunters to find out if the winds are blowing in a rotation, which would indicate that a storm is developing and becoming stronger. The aircraft flies into the area at a low altitude of between 500 and 1500 feet above sea level.

If a circulation is found, Hurricane Hunters would start to fly “fix” missions; heading at a higher altitude into the centre of the storm. The Weather Officer releases an instrument called a dropsonde into the eye wall and into the eye of the storm. The dropsonde measures the maximum winds at the surface of the ocean and the lowest pressure in the eye wall.

The NHC uses the information gathered by Hurricane Hunters to forecast the path and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. This information is passed to local meteorologists and governments who can then issue watches and warnings.

Of course everyone wants to know what it feels like to fly into the eye of a hurricane. When asked, Hurricane Hunters Commander Major Brad Roundtree described it as being like a roller coaster ride through a car wash!

Did you know that St. Maarten will experience a partial solar eclipse next Monday? That means the sun will be blocked by the moon! Part of the sun will be covered up by the moon for about two and a half hours on Monday afternoon! Starting at about 2:20pm and peaking at maximum coverage at 3:18pm. It will end at 4:40pm.

Be careful! Don’t look at the solar eclipse! It can hurt your eyes, even with sunglasses! You have to have proper solar eclipse glasses which are available at Blue Point. Ask your science teacher if you can get some to share during Monday’s eclipse!

The Little League Ball Park became a lot greener on Saturday, August 19, when Rotary Club of St. Maarten-Mid Isle planted 26 coconut trees and 24 palm trees. The tree planting was the result of the ongoing Rotary Plant a Tree Project. The coconut trees and top soil were donated by Jerry Speetjens, and the palm trees by Rotarian Wayne Wilkie. Windward Roads assisted by providing a backhoe to dig the holes for the trees.


This project was an initiative of 2017-2018 Rotary International President Ian H.S. Riseley. He challenged all 1.2 million Rotarians to each plant a tree between the start of the Rotary year July 1, 2017, and Earth Day, which is celebrated on April 22, 2018. With this project, he hopes Rotary Clubs will become more active in regard to the environment.


Riseley: “Environmental issues rarely register on the Rotary agenda. The time is long past when environmental sustainability can be dismissed as not Rotary’s concern. It is, and must be, everyone’s concern.”


Planting trees will help to improve environment sustainability, because trees remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the air that we breathe. This will hopefully slow down the effects of global warming.


Riseley: “It is my hope that the result of that effort will be far greater than the environmental benefit that those 1.2 million new trees will bring. I believe the greater result will be a Rotary that recognizes its responsibility not only to the people on our planet, but to the planet itself.”


Rotary Mid-Isle teamed up with Little League’s Player Development because, according to Club Secretary Denise Antrobus, “We wanted to plant trees where they would be appreciated and taken care of, and where we could keep an eye on them ourselves.” Rotary Mid-Isle has a long-time involvement with Player Development. They plan to visit Player Development at least once a month, and as such this would be an ideal location.


Some 11 Rotarians: two partners in service, one prospective Rotarian, Coach Tom Burnett and some of his players from Player Development were involved in the planting of the trees. The children helped by filling holes, watering all the trees and placing stone borders around the smallest trees to protect them from being damaged. Of course, the children are looking forward to the coconuts, because these will provide them with coconut milk and a yummy treat to eat. They will acquire a lot of patience and will in time earn the coconut produce.

Good news, everyone! The little duckling that was rescued a couple of weeks ago is doing great! Swimmer, as the duckling was called affectionately by its rescuers, is enjoying its stay at the St. Maarten Zoo. The duckling was taken to the zoo shortly after its rescue out of a well. It appeared to be only a few days old at the time.


Little ducklings are unable to take care of themselves. They are susceptible to hyperthermia and drowning because ducklings do not yet produce the oil necessary to keep water of their feathers. Furthermore, they need the guidance of other ducks to learn species-specific skills to survive.


Luckily, the rescuers did not touch the duckling or give it much attention while in their care. This is important, because ducklings easily imprint on those around them. Stories are known of friendly dogs taking care of ducklings, resulting in the ducklings thinking they are canines!


Swimmer’s survival is the result of what is known scientifically as conspecific brood parasitism. Conspecific brood parasitism means, for instance, that another female bird lays eggs in an already existing nest and then her offspring are raised by the owner of that nest. This is especially common among ducks, and many other birds, but it also occurs in insects, fishes and amphibians!


On its arrival in the zoo, Swimmer was added to a nest of duck eggs about to hatch. The zoo caretaker anticipated that the eggs would hatch shortly – and he was right. Later that day, the other eggs hatched and Swimmer suddenly got a lot of foster siblings! Its foster mother had no problem accepting Swimmer as one of her brood.


When visiting St. Maarten Zoo to check on the duckling’s progress, the rescuers saw first-hand that the duckling’s name was well chosen. Swimmer really loves to swim!


Photos and writing by Emma Croes

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