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Kentos Vanishing Adders

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    Posted: 15 Apr 2005 at 7:58pm

Kent's vanishing vipers
Adders are having a tough time in Kent, so volunteers are wanted to help turn around its fortunes. By DAVID MAIRS

THE news that the adder appears to be on the decline in Kent is unlikely to prompt many tears among the general populace - indeed, a more likely response to the plight of Britain's only venomous snake would be "Good!".

Which is a shame because the presence of this oft-misunderstood animal in the county can only be a good thing for the overall wealth of the county's natural heritage.

The adder makes a brief appearance in Kent's Biodiversity Action Plan, where it is referred to as a 'standard bearer/ quality indicator species' for heathland and mire and lowland acid grassland. Sadly, however, the largest areas of these habitats (Hothfield Common's heathland, and Knole and Old Parks' acid grasslands) are not known to definitely hold adders.

All this could theoretically mean these sites aren't as great for wildlife as some people crack them up to be, but the more probable truth is that adders are simply being under-recorded here and indeed elsewhere in the county.

However, even if this is the case, there is little doubt that times are hard for the adder in Kent. Habitat loss through development and change in land use, fragmentation of remaining populations, unsympathetic management and human persecution and disturbance have all contributed to a decline in numbers.

Persecution is one factor that should not come into play as not only is it based on ignorance, but it is illegal.

The adder is protected against deliberate killing and injury under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, although - as is so often the case in wildlife conservation - its habitat unfortunately is not.

Despite the relatively gloomy prognosis, there are still healthy populations of adders in East Kent, particularly on its chalk downlands. Farther west in the county, however, the species' distribution is becoming increasingly fragmented. The seemingly endless growth of housing estates, roads and arable farmland means the future of isolated groups of reptiles looks ever bleaker.


And if they're lost, the probability is they're lost for good. The chances of areas being repopulated by dispersing animals from neighbouring populations is remote. After all, what odds would you give a single snake making it across a four-lane carriageway, let alone enough to establish a new population?

The parlous state of the adder's situation in Kent is perhaps best portrayed by comparing it to that of the sand lizard.

Those of you who follow such matters will recall the recent reintroduction of the sand lizard into the county, at Sandwich Bay. Such measures were necessary because the sand lizard had become extinct as a Kentish species, so when you appreciate that the adder's distribution in the county today is probably very similar to that of the sand lizard 100 years ago, it becomes apparent that a similar fate could quite conceivably await the venomous one.

And we don't want that to happen, do we! So itĂs heartening to learn that last year the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group (KRAG) established a project called Adders in Decline which aims to promote the conservation of the species here.

To this end, the group wants to map the distribution of KentĂs adders; monitor important populations; recommend strategies for further survey work; raise awareness and publicise conservation concerns; and promote the adoption of a species action plan. The Kent project will run in tandem with the Herpetological Conservation TrustĂs national census, entitled Make the Adder Count.

And the news just gets better and better, because you can join in the fun of helping mould a better future for the adder in Kent.

Not only is KRAG keen to receive all records of the species, but it is running training events for anyone wanting to help carry out survey work.

If youĂve seen an adder in the county, or if you would like training in survey methods, please contact Dr Lee Brady, 13 Woodside Cottages, Dunkirk, Faversham, Kent ME13 9NY, (email herprecorder@

«Kent Horse & Country KOS Media (Publishing) Limited (Reproduced with permission) [Source]

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote calumma Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Apr 2005 at 11:43am
One or two slight misquotes in there, but in general I'm quite happy with that article. I have received a couple of useful records generated by it already.


Lee Brady

Kent Herpetofauna Recorder | Independent Ecological Consultant

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