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Endangered Tree Boas Found Dead Near Armory

April 18, 2009 — Two of the territory's endangered tree boas were apparently killed by humans and found dead Tuesday near the V.I. National Guard Armory on St. Thomas.
"They were cut across the neck. It was not an accident," Renata Platenberg, a wildlife biologist at the Planning and Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Division, said Friday.
She suspects that the cuts were made with a machete or a knife. Platenberg said the killing may have happened when the tree boas, a type of snake, were inadvertently scared out of their hiding places.
"Tree boas don't move very quickly," she said.
The tree boas may have been killed because people don't know what they look like, Platenberg said.
"And there is an intrinsic fear of certain animals. Snakes are high on the list," she said.
The tree boa can be distinguished from other native snakes by its large size of up to four feet in length and distinct zigzag pattern. It lives only on the eastern end of St. Thomas.
There is no accurate count of the number of tree boas living on St. Thomas because most of their habitat is privately owned. However, Platenberg estimated that about 5,000 live in the area.
Platenberg reminded residents that the tree boas are harmless.
Additionally, she said these snakes are federally protected under the Endangered Species Act as well as the local Endangered Species Act. She said any act of harming, wounding or killing an endangered species is subject to fines of up to $50,000 or imprisonment.
They are on the endangered lists due to habitat loss and predation by cats, dogs and humans.
The dead tree boas were turned over to Fish and Wildlife. Platenberg said that the first dead tree boa was found by a person who gave it to staff at the Montessori School, located near where the tree boas were found. Montessori School staff passed it on to Platenberg. Someone chatting with the person who found the first dead tree boa soon after discovered the second one. That person delivered it right to Platenberg.
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