Government of Saint Lucia– The Ministries of Health and Agriculture have collaborated on establishing a Centre for Excellence for Snake Bite Education. On Sep. 21, health practitioners on the West Coast participated in a training session to bring awareness to snake species in Saint Lucia.
Nurses from the Anse La Raye, Vanard, and Canaries Wellness Centres were in attendance at the workshop who had undergone snake-bite training.
Public Health Nurse Supervisor Yasmine Gabriel said the training aligns with plans to make the Anse La Raye Wellness Centre a hub for snake bite education.
“The Anse La Raye Wellness Centre will be renamed the Centre of Excellence for Snake Bite Education. We do not treat snake bites in our Wellness Centres, but we believe that the most crucial measure in reducing fatalities from snake bites is education. So we are starting to educate our staff.”
The session covered various topics ranging from how to identify venomous snakes and how to protect oneself.
Assistant Chief Forestry Officer Pius Haynes said, “The training was more focused on the snakes endemic to Saint Lucia and their identification. It also covered how we can distinguish between the Saint Lucia Boa and the Saint Lucia Fer-de-Lance because people have had many issues identifying one from the other. The sessions also discussed ecological requirements, where you are most likely to encounter a Fer-de-Lance and a Boa and what their diets are composed of.”
While Region Seven is a well-known snake habitat, the Forestry Division is reporting increased snake sightings around the island. The Assistant Chief Forestry Officer assures the public that the lifesaving anti-venom available at the Owen King EU Hospital is always readily available.
Saint Lucia is home to approximately 28 reptile and amphibian species, only 19 of which are native. With 53 recorded species of snakes in the area, one should always be cautious when using self-guided trials around Saint Lucia.
Venomous Species of Snakes- Saint Lucia:
Because of the geographic isolation of the islands, there are not as many snake species as you might expect here. However, below are some of the species of venomous snakes of Saint Lucia-
- Santa Lucia Boa Constrictor- Boa Orophias: These snakes are generally called ‘Tet Chyenn’ or ‘Dog’s Head’ for their distinctive head shape. They are only found on the mountainous volcanic island of Saint Lucía.
Identifying Character– They are listed as endangered on the ‘IUCN Red List’.
- Adults may be between 20 inches and 14 feet in length.
- They have a dark line through their eye and down their cheek, and the entire snake may have a metallic gleam in certain light.
- They Feed on birds and mammals, including rats, cats, rabbits, and bats.
- They grab their prey with their jaws and then constrict them with strong coils, killing the prey before swallowing it.
These big snakes are threatened in Saint Lucía by habitat loss, pollution, invasive predators, and human persecution.
- Saint Lucia Threadsnake- Tetracheilostoma breuili: It is very hard to see this kind of small snake as they spend the majority of their life underground. Due to this, they don’t have very good eyesight. One needs to typically look in moist soil and under logs and stones to observe them.
Identifying Character- One can identify this species of snake by the following-:
- Adults are 5.1 – 10.2 cm (2-4 in) long.
- The body shape is worm-like, and they are easily mistaken for earthworms.
- Their main source of food tends to be the larvae of ants and termites.
- Saint Lucia Lancehead- Bothrops caribbeaus: This snake is also known as St. Lucia Fer-de-Lances or St. Lucia Vipers. This is only found in Saint Lucia. They are mostly terrestrial but often found in trees. They occupy rainforests and some other habitats in Saint Lucia.
Identifying Characters- They occupy rainforests and some other habitats in Saint Lucia.
- Adults may grow up to 6 feet in length or more.
- Their coloration is typically olive-grey or olive-brown, with darker brown blotches that are often most obsolete.
- Their bellies are typically whitish or yellowish.
- They have heat-sensing pits that help them to detect their food.
- Young snakes often feed on smaller prey, such as large insects, frogs, and lizards.
Saint Lucia Lanceheads are listed as endangered on the ‘IUCN Red List’. Human persecution is one of the largest threats facing these snakes in Saint Lucía. They are often killed out of fear. They also face other issues like habitat loss.