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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

St. Lucia Thread Snake

Jeannette Victor

Have you ever seen a dark brown worm that looks very unusual?  You may have thought that you have discovered yet another species!  It is another species but not that of a worm, it is a snake.

St. Lucia Thread Snake or Worm Snake is scientifically known as leptotyphlops bruilei.  This snake is endemic to the island, which means that it occurs naturally only on this island. The Thread Snake is said to be the second smallest snake in the world, which attains a maximum length of 108 mm and is colored dark brown with a pair of cream or yellow lines along its body.

The worm snake is not as widespread as the boa constrictor. It inhabits seasonal dry forest along the coast of St. Lucia and found in soil beneath leaf-litter and under rocks. Only a few sightings have been confirmed to date, which includes Maria Island, Praslin and Anse Galet.

Termites, adults and larvae of ants usually form part of their main diet. They are able to lay for the most part 12 slender eggs which hatches within three months.  The small number of thread snakes on St. Lucia is due to loss of coastal dry forests, use of insecticides and alien invasive species (i.e. species that do not belong to our island but are brought in often unknowingly by others).

In order to protect and conserve this species for future generations we need to ensure that the offshore islands are kept free of alien invasive mammals. The offshore islands include Maria Islands, Praslin Island, Rat Island and soon to be Dennery Island which are managed by the St. Lucia National Trust and Forestry Department.

As proud St. Lucians, we need to educate ourselves on the dangers of bringing in animals from other countries and adhere to the policies regarding the protection of the species found on this beautiful island. The forestry Department is sincerely willing to co-operate with citizens to revamp the rich biodiversity that is required for a cleaner environment.