PRESS RELEASE: SLNT uses multi-pronged approach to Fer-de-Lance Management
On November 3rd, the Forestry Division, a major partner of the project “Conservation and Management of the Endemic Fer-de-Lance on the small island developing state of Saint Lucia” will be the recipient of a supply of protective gear and equipment under the project. The handing over will be done by Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) who is implementing the project in collaboration with the Forestry Division and other partners, and with funding from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme. The handing over of these resources to the Forestry Division within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, Natural Resources and Co-operatives comes as a follow-up to practical training provided under the project to Forestry Officers and other persons who may be at risk of snake bite because of their line of work.
In addition to training, the project makes provision for the acquisition of gear to reduce the risk of being bitten, safe and effective handling of the Fer-de-Lance as well as the establishment of a mechanism that allows them to access proper health care in the event they do get bitten. The Director of the SLNT, Mr. Bishnu Tulsie said, “For safe co-existence, it is important to find a balance between the survival of the Fer-de-Lance as part of Saint Lucia’s natural heritage and that of human health and safety.” He further stated, “For this to be effective the engagement of all stakeholders, particularly the Forestry Division, the Health Sector, and persons who come into contact with the Fer-de-Lance regularly is critical.”
According to the Chief Forest Officer (CFO) – Mr. Adams Toussaint, the Fer-de-Lance (Bothrops caribbaeus) is one among four endemic snake species found in Saint Lucia with the core habitat being in the communities of Canaries, Anse la Raye, Millet, Dennery and Praslin. He noted that the snake is present in the forest reserve within the aforementioned communities where some of the Forestry staff work on a daily basis. “The Forests and Lands Resources Department is extremely grateful to receive these personal protective equipment from the project. We are well aware that while vigilance in the forest is key, it is extremely important that our staff is well equipped with adequate protective gear and the appropriate equipment in order to execute their duties safely and successfully,” the CFO remarked.
The implementing partners all agree that the effectiveness of a plan to manage wildlife, especially endemics requires a multi-sectoral effort which entails knowledge of the value of the natural resource, a shared plan for conservation, specific tools and the skills for handling the targeted species, and public education.
On September 29th the public education component of the project continued with the launch of an islandwide survey to establish a baseline of knowledge, attitudes and practices/behaviours (KAP/B) related to the Fer-de-Lance snake by the project partners: The SLNT, Forests and Lands Resources Department, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and Fauna & Flora International.
The health care system is also an important stakeholder, with a protocol already formalised with the Victoria Hospital assigned as the health facility equipped to handle snake bites. Mrs. Joanna Octave-Rosemond, SLNT’s Programme Officer for Natural Heritage Conservation, explained that based on recommendations of the baseline study, a public education campaign will be designed targeting Saint Lucians in general. “It will deal with everything from the benefits of this endemic species to what to do and where to go if you are bitten,” she concluded.