Ecological Services in the Caribbean
Oficina de Servicios Ecológicos del Caribe -- Southeast Region
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New Scientific Study of the Puerto Rican Boa Underway

Boa facing forward

Credit: Mike Morel

The Puerto Rican Boa (Epicrates inornatus), the largest native snake in Puerto Rico, was placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1970 and a recovery plan was developed in 1986.  Since then, little information has surfaced to clarify the conservation or recovery status of this species.  Much of its biology and ecology is still unknown, and the species remains classified as endangered.

Puerto Rican boas still face a variety of threats, including habitat loss, predation by invasive vertebrates, persecution, road mortality, and competition with introduced species.  A 5 year status review that was completed in 2011 indicated that this species is sufficiently in danger of extinction or is missing data relevant to reclassify it or recommended that it remain listed as endangered.  In order to update our knowledge of this species and update the recovery plan in a meaningful way, additional information must be obtained regarding the biology of this species.

Puerto Rican Boa Credit: Jan Paul Zegarra

To address this issue R. Graham Reynolds, Ph.D and Dr. Alberto Puente are teaming up to carry out a series of studies that will generate the new information that is needed.   The University of Massachusetts Boston, the Arecibo Campus of the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, and Iniciativa Herpetológica Inc. will be working together on this study.  The USFWS is supporting this effort with $9,800 to support some of the travel expenses associated with this effort. 

Graham and Puente will look at three key aspects.  In particular, they will conduct a full genetic analysis of the Puerto Rican boa.  Understanding the genetic variation within and between populations throughout the island will inform conservation strategies and help identify areas where conservation is most critical.  The information will also help us assess reintroduction or relocation programs.

The team will also document and characterize all caves associated with this species in coordination with the local speleological society; and implement a standardized reporting system for use by PR DNER law enforcement officers, which will contribute a great amount of data regarding the distribution, habitat use, mortality, and translocation of Puerto Rican boas.

While the Puerto Rican boa is believed to be common, its habitat is under increasing development and modification pressure.  We look forward to the results of these studies as we expect these will help us increase the effectiveness of the conservation measures we consider as we evaluate potential impacts to the species when reviewing development projects that require the Service input under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.

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Last updated: January 12, 2013
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