Antigua and Barbuda, the twin islands of the Caribbean, boast extremely high endemism and are regarded as one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots.
Unfortunately, due to natural causes and human activities, Antigua and Barbuda’s biodiversity have been severely altered.
Many plant and animal species have become rare, endangered, or extinct.
Although conservation measures have brought back some plant and animal species from the brink of extinction, many species are still in danger of going extinct.
Two endangered species of Antigua and Barbuda are the Antiguan Racer and the Barbuda Warbler.
Let’s look at these species and the factors threatening their existence.
2. Antiguan Racer
The Antiguan racer, with the scientific name Alsophis antiguae, was once native to Antigua and Barbuda.
Antiguan racers were considered top predators across these Caribbean islands until the 1890s when small Asian mongooses were introduced to the area to prey on invasive black rats that were breaking and damaging European plantation sugar cane crops.
This method proved counterproductive, as the mongooses preyed on the Antiguan racers and other native species instead of the black rats.
This rampage continued, and in the 1930s, the racers were considered extinct.
Thankfully, a few members of this species remained on Great Bird Island, a small cay that the mongooses did not explore.
With only about 50 Antiguan racers still alive in 1995, this species was tagged as the “world’s rarest snake,” but not anymore.
Once a few racers were discovered on Great Bird Island, conservation measures were put in place by the Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Antiguan Racer Conservation Project to eliminate both the mongooses and black rats on this island as well as 14 other islands around Antigua.
Following this, the snakes were reintroduced to three islands in Antigua – Green, York, and Rabbit.
Since then, the population of Antiguan racers has increased to about 1,100. Other conservation efforts by the FFI include breeding, habitat restoration, and research.
While these measures have brought back the racers and other native species from the brink of extinction, these snakes are not entirely out of danger and are still considered critically endangered by the IUCN.
The major threats to their existence include urban development, invasive species, and an increase in the number of visitors to their habitat.
Plus, the Antiguan racers are fragile genetically and easily succumb to diseases.
1. Barbuda Warbler
The Barbuda warbler (Setophaga subita) belongs to the Parulidae family and the Setophage genus.
This species is endemic to the Barbuda island in Antigua and Barbuda, so you can hardly find it elsewhere.
The species inhabits tropical dry shrubland near wetland areas. Barbuda warblers have been tagged as vulnerable because although there is no sign of a decline at the moment, these birds are still susceptible to habitat degradation.
In September 2017, Hurricane Irma destroyed the warbler’s habitat, and they were feared to be greatly affected.
However, it was discovered that the birds had survived the storm and were not greatly affected.
Still, other factors like poor land-use practices, garbage dumping, and unplanned housing development threaten their existence.
Warblers have gray upperparts with yellow coloring below.
They also have gray eyering and usually weigh 5-8 grams.