By Kadeem Joseph
With investigations into reported sightings of the potentially deadly black and brown widow spiders in Antigua and Barbuda, there will soon be a mobile application that will help in recording reports of invasive species in the country.
Word of the development comes from the Coordinator of a programme dubbed “Preventing Costs of Invasive Alien Species – Barbados and OECS”, Joseph Prosper, who explained that government officials have not yet been able to independently confirm the presence of the animals.
“Everybody that has a cellphone will have access to this app and the whole purpose is that as they move around and they see something that seems invasive … they can go to the app and register it so we can have an idea of where they are seeing these things,” he added.
He also noted that there have been reported sightings of monkeys and green iguanas on Antigua and Barbuda.
An invasive species is an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native.
Prosper said the app will serve as another tool that would help to give an indication of where these animals and plants are located, and help to inform a more controlled and systematic plan to “eradicate them”.
He also noted that there is also a report that green eels have been seen in the country’s waters, however, he is yet to verify those sightings with the Fisheries Division.
The announcement of the new app comes ahead of the observance of International Biodiversity Day on Sunday, and Prosper said this year there will be a strong focus on the harmful impact that invasive species could have on the country’s vulnerable ecosystem.
He indicated that while some may believe that introducing new species to the country — be it an animal or vegetation — could be beneficial, they have often proven to “do more harm than good” to the ecosystem.
He highlighted the impact that invasive species such as the Giant African Snail; Cuban tree frog; lion fish; the bacteria that causes lethal yellowing in palms; black and brown rats; mongooses; lemon grass; and the southern cat-tail that the country has had to contend with over time.