What are the main threats to the Saint Lucia racer?
The main threats to the survival of the Saint Lucia racer are non-native predators including mongooses and rats. This ground-dwelling snake evolved without any natural predators (and, therefore, without any defence mechanisms), so the introduction of invasive predators has had a devastating impact on its population.
How many Saint Lucia racers are left?
The Saint Lucia racer was once considered the second most common snake on Saint Lucia. However, following the introduction of small Asian mongooses in the late 19th century the population plummeted.
The species was thought to be extinct until 1973 when a small population was discovered clinging to existence on Maria Major. In 1982, the Saint Lucian government declared the Maria Islands as a nature reserve to help protect the remaining Saint Lucia racers and a number of other rare and endemic species also found there. However, this tiny islet remains at risk from invasive species arriving from the mainland, because it lies less than one kilometre offshore.
The vulnerability of the nature reserve was brought to a head in 2017, when a tourism development project proposed a causeway to link the islands with the mainland. This would literally have paved the way for predatory rats and other invasive species to overrun the Saint Lucia racer’s final natural refuge.