St. Lucia Racer Now World's Rarest Snake

Team finds 11 of snake once thought extinct
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2012 1:39 AM CDT
This photo released by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust on Tuesday shows a Saint Lucia racer snake.   (AP Photo/Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Gregory Guida)

(Newser) – Scientists are trying to drum up support for saving a creature they describe as gentle and comfortable with humans—but not particularly huggable. After months of searching, researchers found and tagged 11 St. Lucia racers, a snake believed to be the world's rarest, in a nature reserve on a tiny isle east of the Caribbean island, the AP reports. They estimate that a total of 18 racers live on the reserve, which is actually a pretty good showing for the species: It was declared extinct in 1936. One was spotted in 1973 and there have been only isolated sightings since.

The snakes were almost completely wiped out when mongooses were brought to St. Lucia in the 19th century. The predators will prevent the species being returned to the main island and conservationists are considering setting up breeding programs elsewhere. "In one sense it is a very worrying situation, with such a small population restricted to a single, tiny site," the chief of a conservation group says. "But in another sense, it's an opportunity ... It means that we still have a chance to save this species." The problem, he says, is that "these aren't whales or fluffy little animals that people like."

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