Feb 1

Species name: Galapagos racer

Nominated by: Galapagos Conservation Trust

IUCN Red List classification: Near Threatened

What is so special about your species?

Galapagos racer snakes shot to fame in 2016 in the BBC’s Planet Earth II when they were filmed hunting baby marine iguanas on Fernandina Island. Despite the scene taking place during their best feeding opportunity of the year, the public and media were quick to demonise the ‘evil’ snakes.

Little is actually known about Galapagos racers. Unlike many other Galapagos species, they are shy of humans and hide away. There is even confusion over the number of species or subspecies of racer snake found in Galapagos. Traditionally three subspecies are recognised, though others argue that there is enough distinction to classify four separate species.

Galapagos racers are constrictors and only mildly venomous, tending to prey on smaller species such as lava lizards and insects. The racers on Fernandina, however, have developed a unique behaviour for a terrestrial snake – hunting marine fish from rock pools!

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Introduced species are the main threat to Galapagos racers. They are hunted by cats and pigs forage for their eggs – in fact it is thought that this is the reason that they are locally extinct from the island of Floreana. They are also under-studied meaning that population declines could possibly be going undetected.

What can people do to help your species?

Many of the islands on which Galapagos racers are currently found still have invasive predators, hindering their chance of survival. However, along with partners including Island Conservation, Galapagos Conservation Trust are working on an ambitious project to restore Floreana Island which was historically home to racers. Once invasive species are removed and the habitat restored, Galapagos racers can be reintroduced to Floreana, which could hugely improve the species’ chance of survival. We cannot do this, however, without your support. Visit our website to find out more about the project, including how you can help.

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