The short-nosed sea snake species is not extinct, as believed up until recently. Two snakes belonging to the species were seen off the Western coast of Australia for the first time in 15 years.
During a normal patrol in the marine park named Ningaloo, a wildfire officer saw the snakes on the Nordic coast. The officer photographed the snakes and professors from the University of James Cook identified them as being short-nosed sea snakes. The last time this species was seen was back in 1998, in the Timor Sea.
This threatened species appears on Critically Endangered list and it is protected by the Australian law. The short nosed sea snake species used to live in the Ashmore Reef and Hibernia Reef. The species seen elsewhere are thought to be non-breeding species.
Albert Jacob, who is the environment minister of the Western Australia, said that the discovery is an important one. Not only they found out that a species wasn’t extinct as thought, but that was the first time that a short-nosed sea snake was spotted in the Ningaloo reef. This marine park is the safe place for a lot of species of animals, whether at risk of being extinct or not.
What is also extremely exciting for the scientists is that in the photograph, the snakes seem to be courting. This means that a male and a female have survived, that they were part of a reproductive population and that the chances of them being extinct are lowering.
While the researchers don’t seem to know the reason the snakes started disappearing from the reef they used to live in, it has been suggested that coral bleaching stands behind it. When the water turns too hot or too cold, corals expel the algae that lives in their tissue, which turns the coral to white. Corals don’t necessarily die but they are at higher risk of dying.
The short-nosed sea snakes weren’t the only ones found recently. A rare leaf scale snake was spotted in Shark Bay, which is also an endangered species.
The Australian scientists are excited that the short-nosed sea snake species is not extinct and that they ‘ll have the chance to protect these endangered snake species once again. That won’t be easy though. The researchers will have to monitor them constantly and they will also need to see what endangers these species. They will try to come up with better conservation plans that will make it easier for the snakes not only to survive, but to reproduce as well.