Albany adder in South Africa
The Albany adder is a critically endangered dwarf adder species from South Africa. This small snake is only known from 17 individuals making it one of the world’s rarest snake species and their only known location is undergoing rapid transformation. Urgent research and conservation action is required to prevent their extinction.
Dwarf adders are small snakes that rarely grow more than 40cm long. The range of this species appears to have dramatically shrunk, as none have been collected from two historical areas despite directed searches. Their critical habitat, known as Coega Bontveld, is poorly protected with 60% of its total extent falling within the land owned by a mining company.
All recent records (12 specimens since 1995) are restricted to a 10 km strip within this mining area, which may be strip-mined for limestone in the next 10–20 years. Much of the adjacent areas fall within the Coega Industrial Development Zone, an area earmarked for industrial development, further threatening the remaining habitat.
Nothing is known about this incredibly rare adder’s ecology and the only known locality where it occurs is being transformed at an alarming rate.
The team in South Africa is a partnership between Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Programme and the IUCN Viper Specialist Group. They are investigating the Albany adder’s biology, population numbers and habitat requirements. This information will be used to ensure formal protection for the species in an area that encompasses enough habitat to protect a viable population of around 200 individuals.
Working with local conservation officials and land managers, the team will ensure land is protected and managed to give the best chance for this critically endangered species.
We are now half way through this project and the team are mapping out where there may be suitable habitat to find new populations of the adders. They are also working with the landowners who own those patches to get them on board with the project. These farmers – who typically own land about 200ha – have been mostly positive and giving access which is great news. One new rare specimen has been found and DNA samples taken.