Endangered adder snake is Germany's 'reptile of the year'

World Monday 20/November/2023 07:25 AM
By: DW
Endangered adder snake is Germany's 'reptile of the year'

Germany's reptile of the year for 2024 is the common European adder (Vipera berus), scientists said in a press release published on Sunday.

The German Association for Herpetology and Terrarium Science (DGHT) called the reptile a "snake of superlatives," saying that its traditional habitat covers a "massive total area in Europe and Asia."

"It stretches from England to the Russian island of Sakhalin" in the Far East, it said, adding that the common adder is "the only snake that can be found beyond the arctic circle."

It is the only venomous snake found in Germany other than the asp viper, which is localized to the Black Forest region in the southwestern Baden-Württemberg state.

The common adder is "severely threatened" in Germany and is at risk due the effects of climate change, as it thrives in colder climates. This has prompted the DGHT to recommend conservation measures such as the preservation, linking and optimization of already existing habitats, as well as the rewilding of specimens in captivity.

According to the DGHT, the 5,000-member association is the largest in the world that deals with the conservation and study of amphibians and reptiles. It has handed out the titles "reptile of the year" and "amphibian of the year" since 2006 with the goal of raising awareness.

What else do we know about the common adder?

While adder bites can be painful and cause swelling, they are very rarely dangerous for humans. "However, it is important to take an adder bite seriously, stay calm and seek medical help if necessary," the DGHT recommends.

The female of the species grows to around 90 centimeters (35.4 inches) long and is covered in various brown hues. Males are somewhat smaller, at around 60 centimeters long, and tend to be of light gray or silver color. Auburn and black specimens can also be found.

The snake has a characteristic wavy stripe along its back and also sports vertical pupils, according to the DGHT. Such pupils are also present in the smooth snake, which is not venomous but "is often confused with the common adder."

The animal is largely diurnal and lives in heathland and moorland habitats, as well as on the edge of forests and in clearings. It eats lizards, frogs and small mammals and is in turn preyed on by wild boars, martens and buzzards.

Large adder populations can be found in the North German Plain, the eastern Central Uplands, the Alps, the Black Forest region and in the Bavarian Forest that straddles Germany's border with the Czech Republic.

Although the animal is threatened in Germany, the UK-based International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified it as a species of "least concern" in its 2016 global assessment.