At our National Park ‘Arikok’ we believe that research and therefore science is crucial for the understanding and conservation of our natural surroundings. Scientific information is usually obtained at knowledge institutes and documented in books, reports and databases. Not discarding to above mentioned, there is a tremendous amount of knowledge that is not documented. This knowledge resides within the people working at our park and that are in daily contact with nature. For this reason we introduce you to the person behind the science…
Meet Agapito Gomes. Agapito Gomes is a Park Ranger at Arikok with vast knowledge about Aruban species such as the Cascabel (Crotalus unicolor). This type of rattlesnake is only found on Aruba and is internationally recognized as one of the world’s rarest rattlesnakes (the Cascabel is now recognized as a separate species). Agapito is passionate about nature and explains that for the greater part of his life he has lived and worked within natural surroundings. He explains that as a young boy he used to play at the old ‘Cunucu Arikok’ (one of the attractions within the park) where he often found mangoes and cashews growing in abundance.
Together with his right-hand Juancho Croes he is often found within the pastures of our National Park tracking and monitoring our local rattle snake. He explains that he has great trust in Juancho and rarely goes into the fields without him.
Agapito tracks the Cascabel trough an electronic tag. Each snake is tagged with a unique serial number that is connected, via satellite, to an international database. Subsequently, the sex and weight of the snake is determined (this requires precision and fearlessness). Snakes that have been previously tagged are simply checked and weighed and then released into the wild. Agapito is greatly involved in our national Cascabel monitoring campaign and is an expert on the matter. Monitoring these types of species is crucial for reaching conservational goals. Also, the knowledge Agapitio has obtained is not found in books rather it is a learning curve thirteen years in the making. He explains that his first experience with snake monitoring was when the two prominent researchers Andrew Odum (curator at the Toledo Zoological Society) and Prof. Howard Reinert (of the College of New Jersey) started to visit our island for their research on our unique rattlesnake. Agapito explains that he first started carrying equipment for the two researchers and has now progressed to conducting the snake monitoring himself. More so, he is now also able to function as a guide for students and researchers interested in the subject. Years of fieldwork experience have provided Agapito with various new insights on how the Cascabel functions. He now knows how the Cascabel functions during mornings and nightfall and also how severely it’s being endangerment.
When asked if he was afraid of being bitten he explains that, when handling snakes confidence and trusting your partner (in this case Juancho) are key issues. More so, safety is also very important to Agapito. He always makes sure that anyone going into the field has had a chance to consult the safety instructions carefully.
Finally, Agapito is passionate about his work and proud to be a ranger at our National Park Arikok.
In the case of a Cascabel sighting contact Agapito at: 592-4473 (please do not attempt to catch, collect or kill the snake)