Virgin island tree boa ebony-What's All the Fuss About a Tree Boa? | St. Thomas Source

When conditions are favorable, this species can exist in high densities on small islands [1]. However, large-scale habitat destruction and the introduction of exotic mammalian predators have caused severe population declines [1]. The introduction of the Indian mongoose on St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, and Jost Van Dyke contributed to population declines on these islands [3].

Virgin island tree boa ebony

Red-necked Pond Turtle Chinemys nigricans Oaxacan Spiny-tailed Iguana Ctenosaura oaxacana Dunmall's Snake. Crevice Tortoise Malacochersus tornieri Barker's Anole. Cave Tropical Night Lizard. Striped Skink Oligosoma striatum Setaro's Dwarf Chameleon Bradypodion setaroi Thomas, and has lived here, by best estimates based on fossil records, for at least 20, years the first humans are estimated to have arrived in the Virgin Islands around years ago. Newman's Knob-Scaled Lizard.

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A moment later she pulls a three-foot tree boa out of his coiled morning reverie.

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In light of recent events surrounding the tree boa, I would like to take the opportunity to explain why there should be a fuss about this snake. The Virgin Islands is home to five species of harmless snakes; one, the corn snake, is a recent immigrant from southeastern US.

Three of the snakes, the Puerto Rican racer, the blind snake, and the garden snake we share with other Caribbean islands. Its need for a forested habitat in a hot, dry climate restricts it in the USVI to the east end of St.

This animal, surprisingly, does not live on St. John or St. The tree boa is a small, harmless snake rarely reaching lengths of four feet. It never bites. It is active mostly at night, when it moves through tree branches looking for a sleeping lizard for dinner. It also eats mice and small rats.

This snake does not make a nest and lay eggs, instead it gives birth to tiny wriggling black and white babies. This snake can be distinguished from other native snakes by its pattern of dark brown blotches running down its back, and pale, creamy stomach. It also shines iridescent in the sunlight! It does no harm to humans and is rarely seen. And, unlike the mongoose or the tortoise, this snake is a true native Virgin Islander.

The tree boa is one of the original inhabitants of St. Thomas, and has lived here, by best estimates based on fossil records, for at least 20, years the first humans are estimated to have arrived in the Virgin Islands around years ago. This species is endangered because of the increasing loss of its specialized habitat.

The snake was designated as endangered under the US Endangered Species Act in , and since then, it has been largely ignored. Very little of its native habitat remains, having been lost to wide-scale residential and commercial development on the East End of St. Thomas, development that shows no signs of abating. Snakes have a terrible reputation, one that is attached even to those beneficial and harmless to humans.

The question is not whether we should be saving a snake, but more one of what responsibility do we have to protect a species that has been identified as being in peril of extinction by human hands?

We know the examples of the dodo and the passenger pigeon, animals that were once so plentiful and yet completely obliterated from the planet in a few short years by human activities. We may also be familiar with the case of the St. Croix racer, another native Virgin Islander that became extinct sometime in the last years. Are we willing to let another Virgin Islander irreplaceably disappear? If we allow this ancient resident to become extinct, either through neglect or mismanagement, it is a clear sign that we are all in danger.

There are mechanisms for protecting the boa and its habitat, but these only work when they are applied equally to all projects, including those with important public value. Renata Platenberg St. Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Log in to leave a comment. Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall - we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. Our sites are more popular than ever, but advertising revenues are falling - so you can see why we could use your help.

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The large undertaking will completely overhaul V. She said when the request was made to FEMA it was not to simply repair the damaged, outdated school structures but to rebuild and replace everything.

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Support the VI Source Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall - we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. View Galleries. Thomas Source Major demolition and construction of the territory's new public schools will begin in the summer of should FEMA funds arrive as expected in March of that year, said Department of Education A.

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Virgin island tree boa ebony

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A moment later she pulls a three-foot tree boa out of his coiled morning reverie. Tree boas are nocturnal, and though it's a cloudy day on the island, there is still more sunshine than this guy is accustomed to. Immediately the snake's self preservation instincts kick in, and he releases a sticky, foul smelling, yellow fluid.

As soon as the snake stops the discharge and resigns himself to his fate, he gets comfortable with Platenberg, sliding through her hands and over her arms. He is harmless. For now this tree boa has temporary residence in a tank in Platenberg's office. He was brought in by someone who saved him from harm's way near the side of the road.

Part of Platenberg's job is to find a safe spot to release the snake, which is federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. Platenberg is a wildlife biologist, more specifically a reptile ecologist, who works with the Department of Planning and Natural Resource's Bureau of Wildlife. She's been working with lizards and snakes for 10 years. Since moving to St. Thomas a year ago, she's taken on the tree boa as one of her projects.

Most tree boas are found sitting on roads or on properties. Since then there have been sightings reported, 78 of them since the year The snake was pushed into the public's attention after Hurricane Marilyn, when emergency housing was erected in the middle of what was believed to be prime tree boa habitat. A lawsuit was filed Sept. Thomas" the habitat of these species.

The suit was filed to stop the construction of a temporary housing project in nearby Estate Nazareth. The plaintiffs said "The project was a hurried response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Marilyn, which struck St. Thomas in December and displaced many people from their homes. These days, DPNR is trying to get people to keep the tree boa in mind.

We'd rather people left them if there's no danger. We just want to know where they are. They're small, usually about one to two feet long and no wider than a finger.

They have a zigzag pattern of dark brown rings around their bodies, and they look iridescent in the sun. The tree boa sleeps on the ground, under debris, in abandoned termite nests, rock burrows, and in interlocking tree canopy.

No one knows how many tree boas live on St. Most of the sightings come from Ridge Road. Lack of funding and the snake's nocturnal nature have kept biologists from studying the tree boa more in depth. Platenberg sometimes goes out looking for them at night, just before sunset until about eight or nine in the evening.

Her aim is to gather data and note the locations of the snakes but "I have to say I've never seen one of them. More development and more houses in tree boa habitat add up to more encounters.

They don't eat mice or rats. But it's a beautiful snake," says Platenberg. Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Log in to leave a comment. Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall - we want to keep our journalism as open as we can.

Our sites are more popular than ever, but advertising revenues are falling - so you can see why we could use your help. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. Thanks in advance for your support! Email Address:.

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View Galleries. John Source St. John teens will meet for a full day of team building, problem-solving and idea pitching on Saturday at the island's first Innovation Camp sponsored by Junior Achievement, Scotiabank and commu. Likes: 1 Shares: 0 Comments: 0. Since the Virgin Islands Source — the only online newspaper of general circulation in the U. Virgin Islands — has been providing the community with reliable, accurate and fair community-centered journalism.

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Virgin island tree boa ebony