The ARG UK Adder Campaign is our response to a reported significant UK-wide decline in populations of this iconic native snake. Evidence gathered by our volunteer ARGs suggests local extinction in at least three English counties, and we believe that the small and often fragmented populations we find across southern and central England may be equally vulnerable. The findings from the ARC 2012 Adder Status Project, our long running adder emergence study, ‘Make the Adder Count’, support this hypothesis, and although adders are undoubtedly doing well in some areas, we have a real concern that if we do not act now, then we may start to lose them altogether from parts of the UK.
This matters!! Apart from the intrinsic right these animals have to exist as part of the complex and delicate ecosystem of our beautiful planet, the adder is an important indicator species. They are extremely sensitive to disturbance and their disappearance is often the first harbinger of environmental degradation. Conversely, if they remain present in good numbers, then we know that the ecosystem is in a healthy state.
Following on from the ‘Vanishing Viper’ major two-day national adder summit, organised by ARG UK and ARC in 2016, the primary drivers for these declines appear to be habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, and a concomitant increase in predation as animals become more exposed and vulnerable. However, adders also continue to suffer from human disturbance and persecution, particularly as habitats become more fragmented and human pressures have a greater impact. Many of the dead adders recently received through the Garden Wildlife Health Project (www.gardenwildlife.org.uk) have suffered from a blunt trauma, suggesting deliberate killing. Their public image is further worsened by the often ill-informed or hysterical coverage of adder bites within the media - often the only information the public see. This image needs to be addressed, both locally and on a national level.
What do we do?
The Adder Campaign seeks to address these concerns by:
- Supporting Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to help devise a Species Action Plan (SAP) for the Adder.
- Long term visual monitoring of spring emergence near hibernation sites through Make the Adder Count.
- Local action – a number of ARGs monitor adder populations in their own vice county. They use this information to advise land owners and land managers, and ensure that sensitive areas are sympathetically managed.
- Running training courses to teach volunteers how best to survey for reptiles, and support landowner action.
- Raising awareness by developing a creative and positive narrative that aims to: dispel the myths; engage and educate all members of the community about these often-maligned animals; and help develop a sense of community pride and ownership. Following on from the success of 'What's that Snake?', we have started a new project 'Adders are Amazing!', to work with communities in Pembrokeshire to develop these links.
What can you do?
- Join your local ARG, attend reptile training courses and join the survey effort.
- If you are already monitoring a local population of adders, consider submitting your results through Record Pool or Make the Adder Count, so that we can use the data to inform conservation.
- If you can’t get out into the field, support us by donating to ‘Adders are Amazing!’, and help us to protect one of the UK’s last important adder strongholds in Pembrokeshire.