St Lucia’s fer-de-lance snake is now considered an endangered species. Georgina Kenyon, a freelance journalist, spoke to Adams Toussaint, an employee of the island’s Forestry Department, about the need to act to preserve the snake.
St Lucia is simply beautiful. For a small island we are blessed with great biodiversity and a spectacular landscape. I am lucky to have been born here. But it’s sad that the snakes and reptiles of St Lucia are threatened with extinction.
About 50 years ago the geographical range of the snake covered a large part of the island. Yet according to the latest study of St. Lucia’s reptiles and amphibians, completed last December, the poisonous snake, the Fer-de-lance (French for ‘spearhead’ or ‘iron of the lance’) is now limited to two fragmented areas on the island.
This type [subspecies] of Fer-de-lance (Latin name Bothrops caribbaeus) is only found in St Lucia.
It is unfortunate that people do not love the snake, which is regarded as a notoriously dangerous species. The prevailing attitude is to exterminate it, rather than to conserve or protect it.
Lobbying for its protection or getting policymakers to buy into the idea of giving the Fer-de-lance any form of protection is a mammoth task, that will require a massive education campaign to first change people’s attitudes and develop pride and joy in the Fer-de-lance – similar to what was done for the St Lucia parrot.
Although the majority of St Lucia’s wildlife is protected under the Saint Lucia Wildlife Protection Act of 1980, the Fer-de-lance is not. The snake has the same status as rats and the mongoose.
But while rats and the mongoose are two alien invasive species that have a mostly destructive impact on St Lucia’s biodiversity, the Fer-de-lance is an endemic species and should invoke some sort of national pride.
I am hoping that conservationists will become more interested in protecting the species and look to focus more resources towards in-situ and ex-situ conservation. We also want to create an education campaign to compliment a conservation programme.
We need to protect their habitat, to educate the public not to kill them, and we need more applied research.
I believe that the first step to conservation of any species is an assessment of the population status. This was done in December 2009. So that’s the first step. There is hope for saving our snake.
The report appeared at http://www.guardianweekly.co.uk/?page=editorial&id=1456&catID=4