Three foot Pacific boa snake spotted at Manase

Workers cutting a path for a new walking trail in the forest between Manase and Safotu on Saturday morning were surprised to see a three-foot long snake.

Courtney Stevenson, the General Manager of Stevenson's At Manase, was out with his crew cutting away the bush to create a new trail when, out of the corner of his eye, the snake jumped for him – but missed.

Rather than being frightened, Mr. Stevenson counts himself lucky to have seen the snake at all.

“I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing a live one for ten years; I hope it won’t take ten years to see the next," he said. 

The crew were near the cell-phone towers in the forest when the snake, most likely a nonvenomous Pacific Boa, was sighted.

“I was pretty stoked to be honest,” Mr. Stevenson said. 

The snake was camouflaged with the grass perfectly, and the team didn’t see it until it moved toward Mr. Stevenson's ankle.

“They are harmless, they are not venomous or anything," he said. 

The team at Stevenson’s At Manase have had an eventful week. On Wednesday, two killer whales were spotted by tourists on a fishing trip, who managed to snap what the Government believes may be the first ever photos of the creatures in Samoa.

“That was pretty amazing, and now we finally got to see a little snake, which was really cool, I was pretty happy about it,” Mr. Stevenson said.

The walking trail is being built by the Manase community, including the resort, to offer a more active tourist attraction for those who want it.

The President of the Samoa Conservation Society, James Atherton, said Pacific boa are a rarely spotted but common species in Savai'i, and are endemic, or indigenous, to the land.

They play an essential role in the ecosystem and, Mr. Atherton said, if spotted, should be left alone to “do their thing.”

According to Mr. Stevenson’s relatives from Safotu, Pacific boa used to be a common sight, but people naturally fear snakes and have been killing them. 

“As soon as [people] see them now, unfortunately they destroy them,” he said. 

“They are native, they are part of our environment and have been here probably a lot longer than people have.

“They should be left alone to do their thing, they have their function.”

“Just leave them alone – take a photo and enjoy,” Mr. Stevenson agrees. “I hope they become quite common again, it would be pretty cool if they were easy to spot walking through trails.”

Their habitat is also gradually being destroyed, by development and agriculture, Mr. Atherton said.  He has witnessed the snakes being burned in fires too.

Pacific Boa are found across Melanesia and Polynesia and are sometimes called the Fiji boa or Pacific tree boa. They prey on lizards, rats, and small birds and their eggs too.

According to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, the snakes are “masters of camouflage, thanks to their disruptive colour pattering.

“These snakes pose no threat to humans aside from potentially giving them a fright! If you are lucky enough to see one, we suggest you enjoy the experience before leaving it in peace.”

Mr. Atherton said in the highly unlikely case that the snake would bite a person, the wound should be treated as normal. It may bleed, but it would not be life-threatening, he said.

But he thinks it’s very unlikely. 

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