Used with permission from P. Ryan, The Snorkeller's Guide to the Coral Reef, Exisle Publ. (Auckland).
After G. Allen and R. Steene. 1994. Indo- Pacific coral reef field guide, Tropical Reef Research (Singapore).
After Jordan D, B Evermann. 1903. The aquatic resources of the Hawaiian Islands. Part 1. The shore fishes. US Bureau Fish. Bull. 23:1- 574.
Snake eel
(a fish)
Moray eel
(a fish)
sea snake
Well, not to fear. We do not have the brown tree snake in Samoa. So, if you see a large snake on Ta'u island, don't kill it. However, if you see one on Tutuila Island, it is very important that you send it to DMWR for identification. It is essential that we keep the brown tree snake out of American Samoa. Several of them have already slipped into Hawaii hidden in air cargo shipments from Guam. The snakes will crawl into the cargo or onto the plane's landing gear and then go wherever the plane goes.
The Pacific boa looks a lot like another undesirable snake species, the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), which we don't have in Samoa and hopefully never will. You may have heard that the brown tree snake invaded Guam and caused havoc there. It wiped out Guam's native bird species and helped decimate their fruit bat populations by eating the young bats left hanging in the trees when the adults flew off to find food.

Parents in Guam were even advised to keep their infants and small children away from this snake because it is somewhat poisonous and occasionally has been caught lunching on a baby's arm.
A final note. On rare occasions, sea snakes have been seen in our coastal waters. One verified airbreathing banded sea snake (probably Laticauda columbrina) was collected here in 2000. However, most local sightings of “sea snakes” are actually fish (eels) that are very snake-like in appearance. It would not be difficult to confuse the two:
This harmless snake is widely distributed around the world, but it is not native to our islands. It was probably introduced here when its eggs were carried in the soil attached to some imported plants or machinery. In 1993, it was found in the Tafuna area. Others were found in the Pago Pago area in 2001. The other snake found infrequently on Ta'u Island is the gata or Pacific boa (Candoia bibroni). It also occurs in western Samoa. At one time it inhabited Tutuila Island (its bones were found there) but it went extinct for unknown reasons. On Ofu, an older resident remembers seeing one there when he was a child.

The Pacific boa is more commonly found on islands closer to Indonesia; American Samoa appears to be the eastward limit of its distribution. It can grow to a respectable length of 3 to 6 feet and is tan or darkly colored, but its coloration can be variable. This species is usually found in forests, it is active mainly at night, and it probably eats lizards, rats, and small birds and bird eggs.
Snakes in Samoa? You bet. Two kinds, one right here on Tutuila Island and the other on Ta'u Island. Fortunately, neither is the dreaded brown tree snake (more about that below). Also fortunately, neither is poisonous, both mind their own business, and they are no threat to anyone.
On Tutuila, we have an unusually small black snake that looks like an odd earthworm about 6 inches long. A closer inspection reveals that it has tiny scales. It's called the potted soil snake or blind burrowing snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus), because it has almost no eyes and it burrows through the soil. This secretive nocturnal snake is occasionally found by someone digging in their garden. It eats small soil creatures like termites and insect larvae.
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27. Snakes in Samoa!