Nature's big picture: Rarest snake

The Saint Lucia racer, the rarest snake in the world Conservationists confirm that the Saint Lucia racer is the world's rarest species of snake, with fewer than 18 surviving in the wild. Populations of the small, non-venomous snake suffered rapid declines after mongooses were introduced from India in the late 19th Century. They were actually declared extinct in 1936 but an individual was discovered in 1973. To fully understand the state of the population, an international team of researchers undertook a five month study on the Caribbean island nation. They micro-chipped 11 snakes and are now investigating how to protect the species. "It was a huge relief to confirm that a population of the racer still survives," said Matthew Morton, Eastern Caribbean Programme Manager for Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust who were involved in the research, "but that relief is tempered by the knowledge of how close we still are to losing it forever."

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