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Race against time to save a snake

Count your fingers and toes.

That could well be the number of Saint Lucia racers left on Earth. Anywhere.

It is the rarest snake in the world.

Named after the only place in the world where they are found, Saint Lucia racers once numbered in the tens of thousands.

For generation after generation, these harmless serpents slithered through the Saint Lucia undergrowth virtually undisturbed. In the absence of predatory mammals, their only real concerns were finding food and tracking down a mate. Self-defence wasn’t a big priority.

But this has proved to be the racer’s downfall.

Thanks to humans, the racer’s island home was invaded by alien predators including hungry ship rats and the Asian mongoose, a voracious predator with needle-sharp teeth and an appetite for snakes.

The consequences have been devastating.

Without the ability to fight back or climb to safety, these snakes were picked off remorselessly and, in an evolutionary heartbeat, adult and baby racer snakes were completely wiped out.

There is not a single Saint Lucia racer left alive on the mainland. Not one. 

The last survivors – possibly as few as 20 adult snakes – are confined to a minuscule, predator-free offshore island called Maria Major.

And even here, they are not safe. Invasive predators could easily reach the island at any time and wipe out the remaining racers. For good.

We need to protect this harmless snake from extinction.

So, we have put our own plans in place to protect the last surviving snakes from alien invasive predators.

With your donations, we can support local partners in ensuring that rats and mongooses do not reach the Maria Islands – halting this dire threat in its tracks before it destroys an entire species.

We’re also – through your support – starting a captive-breeding programme on Saint Lucia and plan to reintroduce the racers to additional, predator-free sites on the mainland in collaboration with the Saint Lucia Forestry Department, Saint Lucia National Trust and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Together, we aim to increase Saint Lucia racer numbers to at least 500 by 2030.

That’s a lot more digits to count by comparison.

Please lend a hand, and help bring these precious, irreplaceable and ridiculously rare snakes back from the precipice of extinction.

If you value the natural world – if you think it should be protected for its own sake as well as humanity’s – then please support Fauna & Flora International.
Sir David Attenborough OM FRS Vice-president and FFI member since 1959