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Introduced Species
Natural disasters
Imagine the world's last 50 giant pandas living next to a crowded beach, with people throwing rocks at them whenever they saw one. Until the project began, this was the situation facing the world's rarest snake.

Desert island disco

Crowded out - the racer is
running out of space
Each year, as many as 20,000 local people and tourists visit Great Bird Island to swim, sunbathe, camp and cook barbeques. Most visitors are from the USA and Europe, and don't know that the island is home to one of the world's rarest animals. The money from tourism does not go towards protecting the snake or its island home. Every boat that arrives may have rats or other animals on board, which could escape and re-invade Great Bird Island.
Fatal attraction
Anyone who meets a racer is usually surprised and afraid. Many think it is dangerous. Racers have been found stoned to death or accidentally trampled underfoot. The snakes are still not protected by law and some are killed every year.

Litter is a big problem on the island

Do not disturb!
Up to 400 visitors have been counted on the island in a single day. Large crowds may stop the snakes from hunting, breeding and resting. Some people damage the racer's habitat by walking off the paths, collecting firewood and allowing fires to burn out of control. Campers cut down trees and even mow the grass to make room for their tents.

Collectors' item
Because the snake is so rare, there is even a risk that selfish collectors might pay someone to steal an Antiguan racer from the island.

People watching - what happens when the tourists arrive
Unless carefully managed, tourism and human development are a big threat to the future of the Antiguan racer and the other wildlife that depends on Antigua's offshore islands. The project team cannot stop people from visiting Great Bird Island. Instead, it is trying to change their behaviour and encourage them to take care of the snake and its habitat (see Spreading the Word).
©Copyright 2001 The Wildscreen Trust, PO Box 366, Bristol, United Kingdom BS99 2HD
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