9 June 2023
On Tuesday 6 June 2023, biosecurity officers were notified that a snake approximately 10cm long and 2mm wide, resembling a long black ‘worm’, had been found at the Wharf. Following the alert, biosecurity officials investigated and positively identified it as a brahminy blind snake (Indotyphlops Braminus). Commonly known as the flowerpot snake, it is the smallest snake in the world, smaller even than a short piece of shoelace. This is the first time this, or any other species of snake has been recorded on St Helena.
They are harmless to humans and are no threats to pets. It is non-venomous and spends most of its time underground, in loose soil and moist leaves. Their diet mainly consists of the larvae, eggs and pupae of ants and termites. When disturbed or threatened, they can produce a foul-smelling musk and writhe vigorously.
This snake is native to Asia and Africa and is well-known in countries such as Zimbabwe, Kenya and Egypt. It is not currently known to be present in the UK but has been accidentally introduced into many other countries around the world, including Spain, Australia and both North America and South America. This most commonly occurs via soil, compost, plant pots and the general plant trade.
As this snake can reproduce without male intervention it could easily become invasive here, as it has in other countries. While the risk of invasive species arriving on St Helena can never be completely eliminated, Biosecurity St Helena has several important import health standards and guidelines in place to try and minimise the risk. These include:
- Soil is not allowed to be imported into St Helena.
- Guidelines for the import of compost and peat.
- All live plant material requires an import health standard and requires an import licence.
- Goods, containers and vehicles are risk assessed and inspected upon arrival.
This information can be found on the SHG website at www.sainthelena.gov.sh/portfolios/environment-natural-resources-planning/biosecurity, or by contacting Biosecurity directly. This can be done by telephone on 24724 or via email through Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.
If anyone thinks they have found or seen this snake, a plant or any other species that they think is new or they haven’t seen before and think may be a potential invader, they are encouraged to get in touch with biosecurity. If possible, please try to take a photograph and give a detailed location when making a report, as both of these will help with the identification of the animal or plant.
Note to editors:
Not all newly discovered species will have just arrived at the Island. Some may have been on the Island for many years and gone undetected, either because they are not well-established or because they have been overlooked or thought to be something common.