Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Daily Mail website go to the website for the complete article, my summary follows. The adder (Vipera berus) is endangered and Britain's only poisonous snake is in urgent need of help. more so than any other reptile or amphibian species in the UK. A conservation conference at the Greenwich University campus in Chatham, Kent, met over the weekend to discuss ways of saving the once common snake from extinction. The conference attendees supported a plan to create a website for a survey project using volunteers to monitor snake numbers locally. Adders are in decline and already extinct in some counties such as Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire. Damage to hibernation sites, such as rabbit holes and tree roots is one of the major threats. 'The adder is an enigmatic snake, steeped in history and folklore, from the druids to Shakespeare and Arthurian legend" said herpetologist Dr Chris Gleed-Owen told the Daily Telegraph, and 'It would be tragic to see it disappear.' Despite the decling numbers, there is anecdotal evidence increased bites in people and pets for this year. In July, two dogs died in Essex after being bitten by poisonous adders that were out in unusually large numbers because of the hot weather. There have been 14 known fatalities among humans in Britain since 1876. The most recent was a five-year-old child who died in 1975. Antivenom is now available, which reduces the damage caused by the venom.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The pets are among many small animals that have been attacked after startling the snakes as they bask in the sunshine and had to be put down as the venom ravaged their organs. Two dogs have died after being bitten by poisonous adders that are out in unusually large numbers because of the hot weather. Dog owners are now being warned to be on their guard to prevent any more deaths from the species, which is found throughout the Britain Isles.he latest victim was a ten-year-old King Charles Spaniel which was bitten as she played in a back garden in Canvey Island, Essex. Daisy-May was being looked after by Carol Toplis, 57, while her owner was in hospital for a knee operation.'It was really nasty. The venom attacked her organs. She became very sleepy, it was as though she'd had major surgery,' said Mrs Toplis. The whole story and phots are at Mail On-line.
Friday, April 8, 2011
Recent reports from the UK suggest that the only venomous snake found on the island nation is in serious trouble. Herpetologists from Natural England, Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Oxford University have teamed up examine the status of the Adder. In the last decade it has declined, and surveys suggest a third of remaining adder populations may comprise fewer than ten adults, and likely results from degradation and fragmentation of habitat. Small populations, particularly in the English Midlands, are not capable of maintaining a healthy level of genetic diversity, which makes them less resilient to disease, and make them more susceptible to enetic defects, which in turn could lead to local extinctions. Dr Trent Garner, Senior Research Fellow at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology is quoted as saying, “Genetic diversity has been shown to be a key component for successful adder populations in Sweden and Hungary, but has yet to be studied in the UK. Our goal is to provide the first insights into how population size and isolation may be related to genetic diversity of the UK’s adders.” Jim Foster, herpetologist for Natural England, said, “With around a third of adder populations now restricted to isolated pockets of habitat, and with only a handful of snakes per site, they could be especially vulnerable. As we have seen with natterjack toads, populations that are small and isolated can start to decline purely through genetic effects. This ground-breaking study will see if adders are suffering a similar plight....Fortunately, if there are problems we still have time to deploy a number of conservation remedies. Habitat restoration and the creation of wildlife corridors will help get these snakes back on the move. We may even consider moving adders between populations, to artificially promote “gene flow” - although that carries risks and we’d need to look more closely at the genetics results before proceeding.” [Photo: The Adder, Vipera berus. Photo Credit: Marek Szczepanek].
Tobias Uller of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology agreed, saying, “When populations become small and isolated, with it comes the risk of expression of harmful genetic variants that normally remain ‘hidden’ in larger populations. Loss of genetic variation may also compromise the population’s ability to evolve – a problem that is particularly acute when habitats change rapidly or if a new disease emerges.”
The Adder is one of four reptiles species described as "widespread" because they are scattered over a large area in Britain. It can be found from the south-west England all the way north to Scotland. But this not dose not mean the species is abundant, within their large distribution, they are restricted to grassland, scrub and woodland edge, primarily on sandy soils.
In 2004, English Nature (now Natural England) surveyed naturalists around the country asking them to evaluate the health of Vipera berus populations, the results suggested "disturbance" was the greatest threat. A third of the populations were small (estimated as fewer than 10 adult snakes), and a third of the populations were isolated. Population declines and extinctions tended to be more frequent in small and isolated populations.
Make the Adder Count, is a project encouraging local Adder conservation and long-term monitoring of populations, information from a small but dedicated band of Adder-watchers around the countrymay be able to alert conservationists of populations in trouble. Disturbance can have different causes. In some cases it is destruction of habitat, but the snakes are still being killed by humans. And, disturbance can also result from people visiting well-known adder sites.
Baker, J. 2011. Why we must make the adder count. guardian.co.uk
Surfbirds.com, April, 3, 2011.