Back in August 2010, I reported on how boa constrictors (an introduced, invasive species) in Aruba were a threat to the island’s birdlife.
Efforts are being made to reduce Aruba’s boa population: the New York Times Dot Earth blog recently published an account of an outing with the Aruban Boa Constrictor Task Force. Here are a few brief extracts:
Like many islands elsewhere in the world, Aruba has seen its wildlife powerfully affected by introduced species. Boa constrictors are one of the latest threats.
Aruba’s native mockingbirds, owls and orioles have met the enemy. And it swallows them whole. According to Aruba Birdlife Conservation, boa constrictors kill more than 17,000 island birds per year. Unless more robust efforts are made to control these ravenous invaders, local extinction is a real possibility for some bird species.
The first action taken by the Caribbean nation’s Boa Constrictor Task Force occurred on a rainy Sunday morning in December. My brother and I joined a group near the defunct drive-in theater, situated on a limestone plateau perhaps 200 feet above sea level. All of us (except my brother, who was visiting from California) had attended an hour-long workshop on boa identification and capture.
These were the terms of engagement: no machetes or other sharp weapons. As Diego Marquez, the task force’s co-chair, explained, “We are a peace-loving nation.” Boa hunters would pin their prey’s head with a household broom, grab the neck with a gloved hand, then imprison the captive in a biodegradable plastic bag with the same technique that New York’s dog owners use to scoop poop. Captured boas would be euthanized in the freezer at the state veterinarian’s office.
To avoid cases of mistaken identity, we learned the rule of thumb: if a snake is thicker than your thumb, it’s a boa. Because Aruba’s two native snakes, the cascabel (a rare rattlesnake) and the santanero (also known as the Aruban cat-eyed snake) are both small, this rule actually works here.
Click over to Dot Earth to read the full report.
Since the outing described above, there has been a second national boa capture and control action in Aruba. If you are interested in assisting the work of the Boa Constrictor Task Force, you can send an e-mail to boa.taskforce[AT]gmail[DOT]com.
Finally, the video below, produced by the Arikok National Park Foundation in Aruba provides instructions on how to capture a boa constrictor using a broomstick and a plastic bag:
Previously on Green Antilles: Boas threaten Aruban birdlife.
[Photo: Greg Peterson via birdlife.org]