ARUBA: FUN FOR TOURISTS, NO PICNIC FOR RATTLESNAKES;
SCIENTISTS MEET TO DISCUSS SPECIES' FATE
BETHESDA, Md., Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The majority of visitors to the Caribbean paradise, Aruba, are tourists. Yet, a number of those arriving Feb. 5 will be scientists whose interest is not the island's pristine beaches and luxury resorts, but rather its rattlesnakes.
The Aruba Island rattlesnake, a threatened species, has become a conservation cause celebre for the island's 65,000 permanent residents. While the snakes once flourished, they now occupy only Aruba's southern tip, 10 square miles of uninhabited, dry, rocky cactus scrub habitat. Their survival has been threatened by human encroachment as well as burgeoning numbers of feral goats that are destroying vegetation. While scientists are working on plans to maintain the rattlesnake in its native habitat, the people of Aruba have rallied to make the plight of the snake more visible, featuring it in the local media and school programs as well as placing its likeness on postage stamps and currency.
The Feb. 5-7 "International Symposium and Workshop on the Conservation and Research of the Aruba Island Rattlesnake," funded by the Coastal Aruba Refining Company, N.V. (a subsidiary of The Coastal Corporation, Houston), represents a cooperative effort between local people, industry and international conservationists. Not only will the snake's population and habitat viability be assessed by scientists, there will be workshops to train Aruba educators how to teach students about conservation issues. In addition, there will be a session to teach physicians how to deal with snake bites.
It's no accident that a number of the meeting's participants represent the North American zoological community. The American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums' (AAZPA) includes the Aruba Island rattlesnake in its Special Survival Plan (SSP), a coordinated breeding program for more than 60 endangered or threatened species. According to Andrew Odum, Toledo Zoo's Curator of Herpetology and Species Coordinator for the Aruba Island Rattlesnake SSP, "zoos are maintaining a captive population to ensure that this important animal does not become extinct; so, we are acting as a safety net. However, our primary concern is that the animals that exist in the wild will thrive."
As a result of the zoo profession's commitment to work with Aruba in maintaining its wild population of rattlesnakes, the AAZPA and the Aruba Department of Agriculture have supported field studies to identify population size and natural behavior. A recent study involved implanting radio transmitters in four snakes to monitor home ranges, courtship, mating and movement. Along with the AAZPA and Aruba Department of Agriculture, the IUCN-World Conservation Union's Captive Breeding Specialist Group will participate in the meeting.
The event will take place at the Holiday Inn, Palm Beach, Aruba Island.
For additional information:
-- Tom Barnes, acting director, Aruba Dept. of Agriculture, Husbandry & Fishes, 279-8-28102.
-- Robert Wiese, assistant director of Conservation & Science, AAZPA, 301-907-7777.
-- Myrna Jansen, manager of public relations, Aruba Tourist Authority, 297-8-23778 or 297-8-23779.
-- Will Osterloh, public relations director, The Coastal Corporation, 713-877-6732.
/CONTACT: Karen Asis of AAZPA Conservation Center, 301-907-7777/ CO: American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums ST: IN: SU:
MK-SB -- DC032 -- 4396 01/28/92 16:19 EST