Title

Ecology and Conservation of an Exploited Insular Population of Boa constrictor (Squamata: Biodae) on the Cayos Cochinos, Honduras.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date

2007

Department

Biology

Language

English

Publication Title

Biology of the Boas and Pythons

Abstract

The Cayos Cochinos, a group of small islands off the northern coast of Honduras, are home to an unusual dwarf form of Boa constrictor. This population was heavily impacted by collection for the live animal trade from 1979 to 1993, when a minimum of 5,000 boas was taken from the islands. An unknown level of illegal collection continues, as evidenced by recent arrests of poachers. Today, Boa constrictor is found only on Cayo Cochino Grande and Cayo Cochino Pequeno. We conducted most of our research on the latter island, which is largely protected as a biological reserve. We captured 169 snakes during approximately four months of fieldwork in 2004 and 2005, and tracked seven females and one male via radiotelemetry. Females are longer and heavier than males. Although several large females had ingested large iquanid lizards (Ctenosaura melanosterna and Iguana iguana), relatively few other prey items were found, indicating that small lizards or seasonally available migratory birds might be an important component of the annual energy budget for B. constrictor. In habitats with low thermal variability, B. constrictor rarely engages in behavioral thermoregulation. Multivariate analyses indicated that humans are biased toward seeing snakes in micro-habitats of high structural complexity compared to random locations. Both of these factors might serve to reduce their vulnerability to pulsed poaching episodes. A preliminary population size estimate for the Cayo Cochino Pequeno population is alarmingly low, and the long-term viability of the Cayo Cochino Grande population is even more questionable. Efforts to increase ecotourism on the Cayos Cochinos and to institute educational programs for local residents may help retard the poaching of B. constrictor and provide incentives for conservation.

Comments

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