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Canasí Trope (Tropidophis celiae)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 140510158

Conservation of the poorly known snake Tropidophis celiae: a Cuban endemic species living in a very threatened habitat

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 140510158) - Canasí Trope - Awarded $4,500 on February 25, 2015

Genus Tropidophis Bibron, 1840 (Squamata, Tropidophiidae) is represented by 27 Antillean species (Henderson y Powell, 2009) and 5 South American (Curcio et al. 2012). Cuba is the Hot Spot of diversity of the genus (Hedges, 2002) with 16 out of the 32 species, all endemic (Henderson y Powell, op. cit.). Of these, some species have wide distribution range while others are very limited in distribution. The species with the narrower distribution range is the Canasí Trope, Tropidophis celiae. The species was discovered in Canasí, Mayabeque province, Cuba, and described from a single specimen (Hedges et al., 1999). This is why it was categorized as Critically Endangered by Rodríguez Schettino (2012). A second locality, where two extra specimens were found, was recently published (Torres et al., 2013), so, until date, there are only three known specimens from two localities and no other specimen besides the holotype has been detected in the type locality. Despite is the rarest species of the genus in Cuba, it has not been even listed by UICN. This species seems to occur in coastal and subcoastal vegetation and semideciduous forest over karstic soil. The associated habitat is very important because is unique and is very degraded by direct human impact. The known distribution area is within the north coast, between Mayabeque and Matanzas provinces. This area is very karstic and with a peculiar vegetation which is much degraded. Habitat loss and fragmentation are the most dangerous human impacts in this region. There are many important towns and cities, highways connecting them and cattle raising. This situation led us to intervene for the conservation of the species. This is why the aims of this project are:
1. Determination of the distribution range of the target species by recording presence points throughout the target area.
2. Identification of real and potential threats that could affect the survival of the species by the evaluation of associated habitat.
3. Evaluation of the current conservation status of the target species by the integration of the results obtained in the previous objectives.
4. Securing of specimens for captive breeding and releasing.
I want to extend the knowledge on the ecology of this species by studying aspects of its habitat requirements. The last will allow predictions related to areas where this species could occur and most important, the future extension of its actual habitat. If immediately needed, I want to create a conservation program based in captive breeding for re-introduction in suitable areas. I want to conduct a population genetics study to measure the genetic diversity, fundamental aspect in conservation of small populations.



Project document