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The Antiguan Racer Conservation Project began in 1995, when FFI responded to a call for help from Antiguan naturalist Kevel Lindsay. Incredibly, some conservationists advised us against intervention, because the snake was too rare and unpopular. I am so glad we have proved the doubters wrong, and helped to turn the fortunes of this unique and lovely animal.
FFI Senior Conservation Biologist
Dubbed the ‘world’s rarest snake’ in 1995, when only 50 individuals remained, the Antiguan racer has been making a steady comeback with Fauna & Flora International’s (FFI’s) help.
Antiguan racers used to be the top predators throughout Antigua until Asian mongooses were released by British plantation owners in the 1890s, which wiped out most of the snakes. The species was declared extinct in the 1930s, but a few survived on Great Bird Island, an 8.4 hectare cay that had luckily remained mongoose-free.
By eradicating alien invasive species and re-introducing the racers, the range of the Antiguan racer has been increased to four islands, with a total area of 63 hectares. A census in 2013 recorded just over 1,000 racers, a twenty-fold increase since conservation efforts began.
Although good progress has been made, the Antiguan racer and its habitat remain at constant risk, due to the rising numbers of visitors and the chronic threat from alien invasive species and coastal development.
Antiguan racers have become an unusual flagship species for conservation in Antigua and Barbuda, and feature prominently in the national schools’ environmental education curriculum. Many Antiguans have become rightly proud of their unique snake and its unique island ecosystem.
Learn more about the first few years of our work to conserve the Antiguan racer: www.antiguanracer.org
After eradicating alien rats and mongooses from a dozen offshore islands to conserve the Antiguan racer, some of the bird colonies on the islands have increased by more than 30-fold! The species that have benefited include many regional rarities, such as the West Indian whistling duck and Caribbean brown pelican.
If you visit Antigua, shop around to select the more environmentally-friendly hotels and tour operators. Let them know you are interested in native wildlife and do complain if you see bad practices. If you visit the offshore islands, make sure your clothes and belongings are clean of any seeds, insects or other stowaways that could harm the natural ecosystem. A donation to FFI or the Environmental Awareness Group, large or small, will also help us to conserve the racer and its habitat.