About that snake

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Dear Editor,

The snake being discussed has been known to occur in Samoa for generations, it may have been introduced but it is naturally occurring in other parts of the southwestern Pacific. 

It belongs to the Pacific boa genus Candoia and as such completely harmless and nonvenomous. It is possible it will take mice and small rats but lizards are its more likely prey. The species of Candoia bibroni. 

It is reported from Savaii and Upolu and also Ta’u in American Samoa, maybe also Wallis & Futuna, and Rotuma although Tokelau records are doubted. It is also found on Fiji, the Loyalty islands of New Caledonia, and Vanuatu but it is replaced by related Candoia species in the Solomons, New Guinea and Palau.

Samoa has no venomous land snakes although sea kraits  (Laticauda) and the Pelagic seasnake (Hydrophis platura) may occasionally be found on the coast.

The only terrestrial venomous snake in the entire region is Ogmodon vitianus, a small burrowing elapid found only on Viti Levu, Fiji, where it is endangered due to predation by pigs. A tiny snake, its mouth and fangs are too small to be a danger to humans, and it preys only on earthworms. The Fiji snake is considered unique being the only land-living venomous snake east of the Solomon Islands.

When people report venomous snakes they often do not stop to consider how the snake got there.

I have checked the photo in the Samoa Observer. It is clearly a boa; the markings are nothing like an Australian tiger snake, which incidentally are terrestrial, not arboreal.

The head is also completely different; the boa’s being long and angular, and the tiger snake has a bulbous rounded head.

I would be grateful if this information could be passed on to prevent more harmless, even beneficial and potentially endangered boas being killed by worried Samoans.

Regards,

Mark O’Shea 


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