Home Page Home Page  
Introduced Species
Humans
Natural disasters
 
Some of the racer's most powerful enemies are outside human control.

Irresistible force: not even the biggest trees can stand up to a hurricane
Stormy weather
Since the project started, two massive hurricanes have struck Antigua. During Hurricane Luis (1995) and Hurricane Georges (1998), winds up to 180 kph destroyed many trees and plants on Great Bird Island and damaged the coral reefs. Rough seas flooded all the low-lying areas of the island. Antiguan racers are poor swimmers and many probably drowned. Snake numbers fell from 114 in 1997 to 86 in early 1999.

Fire alarm
The vegetation of Great Bird Island is often very dry, particularly during the winter. Long periods of drought increase the danger of fire, which is a serious threat to snakes and their habitat. Careless visitors make the situation worse by dropping cigarettes or leaving their barbeques burning.

Dirty genes
An endangered species can be its own worst enemy and the Antiguan racer has become a danger to itself. During the last century, the racer population shrank rapidly, like a huge lake that dries up until only a tiny pool of water is left. The surviving population, known to scientists as the 'gene pool', is very small. Because the snakes no longer have much of a choice when it comes to finding a mate, there is a high risk that they will accidentally breed with their close relatives. This 'inbreeding' often produces weak or sickly offspring that are less likely to survive. The most recent survey found that one in every five snakes had a genetic defect such as a crooked mouth, a bent tail, or uneven scales. The Antiguan racer is in danger of being spoilt for LACK OF choice!

 

Playing with fire: one spark
can start an inferno

'I just don't seem to meet anyone
new these days!'
An Accident Waiting To Happen
The other problem is something called demographic stochasticity. This sounds like a football team from Eastern Europe. In fact, it just means that one piece of bad luck, such as the arrival of a deadly disease, could wipe out the entire population of Antiguan racers.
One way to reduce these risks is to breed another population of racers in captivity (see Safety Net), or reintroduce them to other small islands where they used to live (see Eggs In Other Baskets).
©Copyright 2001 The Wildscreen Trust, PO Box 366, Bristol, United Kingdom BS99 2HD
Very Important Serpent | Treasure Island | Mission Impossible | Heroes | Villains | Teachers' Centre