Corfu’s reptiles at their best this spring

It doesn’t look like I will be visiting Corfu this year, despite the fact that over the last 6-7 years I have been there almost every year, mostly in the Autumn or mid summer. However, owing to its beauty and fantastic herpetofauna, many others choose this island as their spring destination to observe reptiles and amphibians. Will Atkins, who is chairman of trustees for the London, Essex and Hertfordshire Amphibian and Reptiles Trust (www.lehart.org) sent me some wonderful images he took on his holiday in Corfu this spring.

Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) (C) Will Atkins

During my last visit in July last year I actually decided that would be my last to Corfu, since some of my favorite areas had been transformed by property developpers in the south of the island. In fact, at an area that contained the highest diversity of species that I have found in Corfu, I could see several notices about the purchase of the land to build holiday homes. Therefore I didn’t want to have to return to this spot, which is especially rich in tortoises, green lizards and snakes, to see how it has been destroyed since my last visit. However hearing of such great trips like that of Will, I surely cannot resist but to return to this island in the near future, and discover some new areas that aren’t threaterned by habitat destruction as so many sadly are at present. For those of you who follow my blog, you may recall me posting on the illegal capturing of Hermann’s tortoises (Testudo hermanni) from Corfu for the pet trade last summer. However it is reassuring, when I read field reports of such high numbers of species being found, considering how the island has changed over the years for the tourist industry which Greece needs now more than ever.

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By Matt Wilson

New photo galleries

After the disappointing amount of photographs you are able to load up for free with Flickr.com, I decided to find an alternative which doesn’t require paying after 200 photo uploads at Picasa, Google’s online photosharing contribution: http://picasaweb.google.com/mjwilsonherps I still have alot left to upload but I’ll try and get as many albums up as I can, although my trips prior to 2007 will be avoided due to my poor photographic skills all those years ago 😉

By Matt Wilson

”Civil protection” agents encourage harmless snake killing in Murcia, Spain

Today I recieved a shocking news publication from my conservationist friend Vicente Hernandez-Gil in Murcia about the actions of the civil protection agents at Yecla in northern Murcia. These people who were called to deal with three snakes found in an observation building for the prevention of forest fires, said the snakes were “too aggressive”, and thereby had to be killed. 

Photo (C) Laverdad.es 2010

The two snakes to the left of the photo being held by the proud young chap and the lady (or man?) with a rather pleased grin on her face are Ladder snakes (Rhinechis scalaris). Whereas the brave gentleman on the right appears to have battered a Horseshoe whip snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) as the highly skilled matador he is. Of course all completely harmless, and this is the kind of ‘trophy’ shot I really don’t like to see.

The leader of the civil protection group said ”one of the snakes raised up almost to our head height, and then spat at us” They clearly must have encountered a three metre spitting cobra from Africa that somehow escaped the scene and was replaced minutes later by a harmless Ladder snake only just over a metre in length. Or are these people just completely stupid?

If you understand Spanish and would like to leave your opinion on this issue you can do so at the article itself, published online by Laverdad.es, one of the best news sources in Murcia, Alicante and Albacete

http://www.laverdad.es/murcia/v/20100622/comarcas/tuvimos-matar-culebras-porque-20100622.html Its hard to believe that members of the ‘civil protection’ had to act in such a poor manner, especially at a place thats main purpose is to protect nature, i.e the observation centre for forest fires.

 

By Matt Wilson

A more successful Murcia visit

After my weekend back in Murcia (Spain) a few weeks ago I thought I would share with you some images from Kevin Byrnes of a far more serious (and successful) herping trip in the region. Kevin visited Murcia in April and was successful in finding most species present in the area, including the species that I tried and failed to find a few weeks ago, the Southern midwife toad (Alytes dickhilleni). 

A male Southern midwife toad (Alytes dickhilleni) carrying eggs (C) Kevin Byrnes

He was especially fortunate to find a nice Grass snake (Natrix natrix) of the subspecies astreptophora, which is possibly the most difficult snake to find in southern Spain. I was also pleased to hear of his findings of a pair of Ladder snakes (Rhinechis scalaris), not because they are particularly rare, but that he found them in an area I thought would be very low in snake numbers due to the overwhelming development of urbanisations, golf resorts etc. Despite its small size, Murcia has lost such vast quantaties of habitats in the last ten years, largely thanks to uncontrolled ‘urbanizaciones’ or as I prefer to call them ‘Stepford wives holiday villages for the British and Germans devoid of any character or charm’. Such holiday villages are usually accompanied by golf resorts that drain precious water resources and require the clearing of huge amounts of Mediterranean countryside to construct. There is still an on going dispute about the contruction of golf resorts close to the sierra de Almenara and the effects it will have on its endangered populations of Moorish tortoises (Testudo graeca). More recently, conservation groups have had to take action to stop the construction of a new urbanisation next to the wildlife park of Calblanque, an area especially rich in reptiles and birds. However proposals for development seem to have gone ahead…

By Matt Wilson

Bad news for Green toads (Bufo viridis balearicus) on Ibiza

Recently whilst researching my summer trip to the Balearics, I came across a very interesting publication, ”el libro rojo de los vertebrados de las baleares” which gives specific information of the conservation status of all vertebrates on these Spanish islands, especially the largest three: Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza. Although it is considered as vulnerable on the first two islands, on Ibiza is now regarded as being in danger of extinction. In the 1960s a study of the toads on this Mediterranean island showed quite a healthy green toad population, and between 1970 and 1980 over 50% of the toad populations on Ibiza were wiped out. During a more recent evaluation in 1992 only four water sources with tadpoles of the species were found on the island.  More recently one additional breeding site has been located far away from the previously known sites, but it appears the species presence on Ibiza may soon be a thing of the past. In Spain the Green toad is only found on these islands and is absent from all of the mainland, and they are currently classified under the subspecies Bufo viridis balearicus, despite the fact that these toads were believed to have been introduced  in ancient times they are now considered part of the fauna of the islands. It is believed the decline of the toad in Ibiza since the 1960s has been due to the continued urbanisation of the island for the tourist industry, destroying what few water sources were present on the island to begin with.  I visited Ibiza in May 2008 and I could not find any appropiate water source which could maintain a population of this beautiful toad species.

By Matt Wilson