Working together to save endangered snakes
23 November 2023
Earlier this year, Durrell’s Caribbean Programme Officer Saphira Hunt, along with Trinity Hunte from Saint Lucia National Trust and Jonathan Cornibert from the Department of Forestry travelled from Saint Lucia to Antigua’s York Island to assist in the Antiguan racer census, run by the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG).
The Antiguan racer’s numbers fell when mongooses were introduced to the mainland in the 1890s to control invasive black rats, which were destroying local sugar cane crops. Instead, the mongoose predated on the native snake species and by the 1950s, Antiguan racers could only be found on a few offshore islands.
Aided by grants awarded by The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund to EAG and Durrell to assist with conserving Saint Lucia and Antiguan racers, exchange trips such as this one allow conservationists to share knowledge between projects. Taking part in the Antiguan racer census provided the Saint Lucia racer team with the opportunity to learn survey techniques, how to tag individual snakes with microchips to help identify individuals, and how to catch and handle racers safely. During the survey, 31 Antiguan racers were caught and logged. These results and the data gathered will help with the development of an Antiguan racer conservation action plan.
Saphira said, “It’s always an amazing experience assisting with the racer census in Antigua. One can never have too much training and field experience, especially when these skills will be used on the ‘world’s rarest’ snake, the Saint Lucia racer. With this being a refresher for me, I am more than ready to conduct further racer searches on Maria Major and begin tagging our snakes.”
This exchange would not have been possible without the collaboration of our partners at the Saint Lucia Forests and Land Resources Department, the Saint Lucia National Trust, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, and the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG).
Photos by Jonathan Cornibert and Saphira Hunt