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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Battling the brown tree snake in Guam


8 May 2012 

Battling the brown tree snake in Guam

By Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News, Guam



 Wildlife biologist James Stanford on the trail of the brown tree snake


In the dense tropical forest, a slither of movement can just be made out in the glow of our head torches.

A snake is entwined in the undergrowth. It is about 1m long, mostly dull brown but with a vivid yellow underbelly.

We are face to face with Guam's "nemesis": the brown tree snake. And the forests here are dripping with them.

The US territory, in the western Pacific, is only 50km (30 miles) long and 10km wide, but it is packed with two million snakes.

This reptile arrived here only 60 years ago but has rapidly become one of the most successful invasive species ever.


Unhealthy appetite

Wildlife biologist James Stanford, from the US Geological Survey, says: "Our belief is that they came at the end of World War II.

"We've looked at their genetics and they are all extremely closely related, and it appears they came from the Island of Manus in Papua New Guinea."

He explains that military equipment used by the US in Papua New Guinea while the war raged in the Pacific was eventually sent back to Guam to be processed. A snake probably crept on to a ship or a plane destined for the island.

"And from that handful, or maybe even one already impregnated female, we now have a population that is unbelievable in scale," he says.

The venomous snakes have caused many problems. They get everywhere, and people have even woken up with them in their beds. (...)

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17992053

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