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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The St. Lucia Viper or Sepan

Photo / Te-Hsin Tsai
Article / Nicole La  Force

Many people are not fond of snakes. In fact, a typical Lucian will tell you once they hear or see a sepan they think danger, kill it! But not all God’s creatures are cuddly and sweet, yet they all serve their purpose in maintaining a balanced and healthy ecosystem. The key is to arm ourselves with knowledge and learn to co-exist.
Saint Lucia can be proud of the fact that we are home to four (4) endemic snakes:  the st. Lucia Boa constrictor or tete chyenn, st. Lucia racer, St. Lucia thread snake and of course the St. Lucia Fer-de-Lance or viper. I must note however that the only natural predator of the St. Lucia viper another snake called the St. Lucia Cribo is now extinct. According to records, the last confirmed sighting was in the 19th century.

The Fer-de-Lance or viper (Bothrops caribbaeus) is a poisonous snake and can grow up to about 2.13 m or over 6ft.  It is a large snake and its colours are usually grey, with sandy yellow to reddish brown above and yellow or cream coloured on the underside. It is able to thrive in a wide range of habitats including our rainforest. It is usually found on the ground but occasionally in trees.

These snakes were more abundant in St. Lucia but not any more. Too many have been indiscriminately killed by humans. You could say their biggest threat is us. The population is at present vulnerable.

Fun facts about our St. Lucia viper
○They mate during the months of March and April.
○They give birth to 30 or 40 live young during August and September.
Adults eat rats, mice and sometimes birds, mongoose and manicou. Great biological pest control I’d say!!
Juveniles feed on large insects, frogs and lizards.

Our Sepan needs to be protected. We cannot allow it to become extinct like some of our other wildlife or else there won’t be anything for our children and grand children to see and enjoy or even the visitors to our shores.

For us to co-exist, the experts have given some great advice:

·        Educate our people on how to avoid being bitten and first aid measures.
·        Permit killing or relocation of snakes only where they present danger to humans like in villages.
·        Identify uninhabited and rarely used forested areas as safe havens for these snakes where killing of them would be prohibited.
Improve snakebite treatment in our hospitals and always have anti-venom on hand.

Hey, let’s hope we have all learnt something here and that together we will continue to preserve our biodiversity. As a colleague of mine once said, ““Remember, what is done to nature is done to us all.  The future generations will hold us accountable for any loss of biological diversity, including the Saint Lucia Viper”’.