In the late 15th century, European settlers began to colonize Antigua. Using slaves brought from Africa, they cut down the forests to make room for huge plantations of sugar cane. The slave ships also brought rats. Feasting on the sugar cane (and, among other things, the eggs of the Antiguan racer), the rat population rocketed. By the end of the 19th century, the rat plague was out of control.|
The plantation owners had a cunning plan (or so they thought). They introduced Asian mongooses to kill the rats. There was just one problem. Black rats are mainly nocturnal, active at night. Mongooses prefer to hunt during the day. So the two animals hardly ever met. This was good news for the rats. It was disastrous news for the defenceless birds, frogs and, in particular, the Antiguan racer, which the mongooses killed and ate instead. Within sixty years, the snake had vanished completely from Antigua and most of its offshore islands, the victim of rats, mongooses and human ignorance.