A surprising flagship species for restoring a Caribbean paradise
by Dr. Jenny Daltry
The Antiguan racer (Alsophis antiguae) is endemic to Antigua and Barbuda and was abundant until Asian mongooses, Herpestes javanicus, were introduced in the 19th century. The mongooses hunted many native birds, reptiles and amphibians to extinction and reduced the snake population to only 50 individuals on the 8.4-hectare Great Bird Island. The Antiguan racer had thus become the rarest snake in the world.
To save these harmless reptiles from extinction, the Antiguan Racer Conservation Project was formed by a partnership of organisations including Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the local Environmental Awareness Group
The racers on Great Bird Island were safe from mongooses, but lacked room to increase and were being literally eaten alive by another alien invasive species: the black rat.
Project staff and volunteers therefore embarked upon an ambitious programme to eradicate rats using a rodenticide donated by Syngenta. Great Bird Island and an additional 13 islands have been cleared of rats to date. Antiguan racers have been successfully reintroduced to three islands, the largest being Green Island at 45.2 hectares…
(read more: Fauna & Flora International)
photographs: FFI and Wallamalloo69