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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 15:10 GMT 16:10 UK
Snake census seeks adder numbers
Adder (picture by the Herpetological Conservation Trust)
Adder numbers are on the wane across the UK
An adder census is being conducted amid fears that numbers of Scotland's only snake are in decline.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said little was known about the status of its population north of the border.

However, anecdotal evidence suggested that numbers were declining due to a loss of habitat.

Mairi Cole - co-author of a new book - said the spring census would be "a big help in planning conservation work for Scotland's adders in the future".

"Conservationists are working to try to restore and create the right conditions for amphibians and reptiles in Scotland, and any help we can get in doing this could benefit these animals enormously," she said.

Survey reports

"Gardeners and other land managers can play a very important role in protecting these animals by helping to design habitats which include suitable areas for basking lizards, or ponds for local frogs and toads."

The SNH book, entitled Amphibians and Reptiles, urges gardeners to include ponds and other such features in their work.

Ms Cole said SNH would be on the look-out to provide reports for the survey, which is being coordinated by the Herpetological Conservation Trust.

It wants the public to record sightings - as well as anecdotal evidence of areas where the animals have been seen in the past - through the Adder Nation website.

Adder (picture by the Herpetological Conservation Trust)
People are being urged to record sightings

Adders are found on the edges of woods and fields, heathland moors, overgrown quarries and railway embankments across Scotland.

An SNH spokeswoman said a loss of habitat due to intensive arable farming, drainage and building development was one of the greatest threats to all amphibians and reptiles.

Chris Gleed-Owen, research and monitoring officer at the Herpetological Conservation Trust, said there were fears that adders were in "rapid decline" across Britain.

"People still fear adders - despite deaths from adder bites being extremely rare indeed - and we have a difficult job convincing people that they are worth caring about," he said.

"The Make the Adder Count survey is part of our efforts to gather information and raise awareness."

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