The Global Invasive Species Database declares “One Hundred of the World’s Worst Invasive Alien Species”, as major threat to biodiversity (the collected wealth of the world’s species of plants, animals, and other organisms), agriculture, and other human interests. Some species invades only a restricted region, but have a high probability of expanding and causing further great damage like Boiga irregularis (Brown Tree Snake). This species is an arboreal rear-fanged colubrid snake native to eastern and northern coastal Australia, eastern Indonesia (Sulawesi to Papua), Papua New Guinea, and many islands in northwestern Melanesia.
Among the 100 worst invasive species, there is a snake commonly known as Brown Cat Snake or Brown Tree Snake. These Native island species are predisposed and vulnerable to local extinction by invaders. When the Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis) was accidentally introduced to Guam it caused the local extinction of most of the island’s native bird and lizard species.
What happened in Guam?
Shortly after World War II, and before 1952, the Brown Tree Snake was accidentally transported from its native range in the South Pacific to Guam, probably as a stowaway in ship cargo or by crawling into the landing gear of Guam-bound aircraft.
As a result of abundant prey resources on Guam and the absence of natural predators apart from feral pigs and mangrove monitors, a Brown Tree Snake populations reached unprecedented numbers. Snakes caused the extirpation of most of the native forest vertebrate species; thousands of power outages affecting private, commercial, and military activities; widespread loss of domestic birds and pets; and considerable emotional trauma to residents and visitors alike when snakes invaded human habitats with the potential for the envenomation of small children.
Since Guam is a major transportation hub in the Pacific, numerous opportunities exist for the Brown Tree Snakes on Guam to be introduced accidentally to other Pacific islands as passive stowaways in ship and air traffic from Guam. To minimize this threat, trained dogs are used to search, locate, and remove brown tree snakes before outbound military and commercial cargo and transportation vessels leave the island.
A successful introduction could pose an immense threat to the already highly threatened endemic birds of the islands. An introduction can cause cascading ecological effects by removing native pollinators, causing the subsequent decline of native plant species. Global ecosystem fragility has every threat due to its connected transportation network to become one village from any exotic.
Before, thinking of any translocation of a snake or animal a rescuer should ponder over this case of a beautiful snake. Nature when disturbed cannot help humans for` food, shelter, and other ecosystem services. Each animal has a specific role in a complex network of eco-chain. That is why we have to learn to live with a snake.
As a snake rescuer, I am still confused about my ego. Is translocation right? Can snake translocation be a part of conservation? As a superior being human, I conclude we need further research and studies.
But, Next time you see someone practicing translocation of the animal to reduce conflict. Ask yourself if it is really necessary. Let’s understand nature lets recognize it. Let’s do something more than identifying nature as specie or objects. Every citizen is a scientist, act for change.
Feature photo by Trent Townsend/Shutterstock