Sometime in the 1940’s, a traveller, most likely a stowaway, slithered its way onto the shores of a tiny Micronesian Island, forever changing the face of Guam and its inhabitants.
An abundance of prey and few predators meant the brown tree snake had found reptilian heaven, and so began the great tropical tree snake party of the century, which was to thunder on for decades, to the misfortune of all.
Sixty years on – brown tree snake numbers have exploded into prodigious proportions. Native bird populations are decimated, lizards and fruit bats scoffed dry, chickens frightened, small children bitten, and Guam’s power supplies are utterly thwarted.
This small island is clearly disturbed, something had to be done. Peter Savarie, Tom Mathies and Kathleen Fagerstone, of the National Wildlife Research Center, had an idea.
Parachuting mice – dead, poisoned and equipped with radio transmitters, launched from helicopters 30 metres above the forest, in what has been described as a posthumous snake assassination adventure.
Targeting the forest canopy, these intrepid researchers anticipated the mouse’s parachute would tangle near the snake’s home, providing easy bait. This would also effectively avoid harm to the forest’s more innocuous inhabitants, such as the ravenous floor dwelling coconut crab.
A number of biodegradable materials were trialled in the venture, such as Ecofilm (biodegradable plastic) and cornstarch. However, it was paper and cardboard that were finally chosen as materials best fulfilling the requirements of an eco reptilian assault.
While the experiment has been labelled “improbable research” by the Guardian, other less credible institutions have given more positive reviews.
Dr Hank Begotten, from the Alternative Life Cycle Organisation (ALCO), has called the endeavour a wonderful intrusion upon an intrusion, which renders biological activity patternless. He adds that such double interventions are expected to produce splendid anomalies like unicorns in the very near future.