In 1989, the believed extinct Antiguan racer was rediscovered on Great Bird Island where it was indeed facing imminent extinction. By 1995, only about 60 racers survived, and most had been severely injured by rats (5). A conservation initiative sprang into action to save this species; Fauna and Flora International, the Antigua Forestry Unit, the Island Resources Foundation, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, the Environmental Awareness Group and Black Hills State University joined forces to create the Antiguan Racer Conservation Project (2). This award-winning project led to the eradication of rats and mongooses from Great Bird Island and 11 other offshore islands, an extensive study programme, and a very active education initiative for local people and visiting tourists (2). The results were highly successful and in 1999 ten snakes were re-introduced onto another small island that had been cleared of rats (4). The Antiguan racer was also bred in captivity for the first time, although severe problems were encountered (2). In 2002 there were still fewer than 150 Antiguan racers in existence (5), but as a result of the various conservation efforts there are now around 300 in the wild, an impressive six-fold increase (6). However, work remains ongoing, population numbers continue to be monitored and constant vigilance is needed to ensure that rats or mongooses do not return to the islands (4). Now something of a national celebrity, the future is slightly brighter for one of the world's rarest animals.
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