Road­side na­ture re­serves to save the mis­un­der­stood Bri­tish adder

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By El­liott Kime

ADDERS are to be given pro­tected road­side habi­tats in an at­tempt to boost num­bers as con­ser­va­tion­ists in­sist they pose “lit­tle risk” to the pub­lic.

Den­bighshire County Coun­cil is be­lieved to be the first lo­cal au­thor­ity in the UK to un­veil plans to use road­side na­ture re­serves to help pre­serve the coun­try’s only ven­omous snake.

The mea­sures are be­ing taken amid fears that adders are van­ish­ing with the species be­lieved to be ex­tinct in Not­ting­hamshire and War­wick­shire, and en­dan­gered in Ox­ford­shire, Buck­ing­hamshire, Hert­ford­shire and Lon­don.

A loss of nat­u­ral habi­tat and hu­man “per­se­cu­tion” has dam­aged the adder pop­u­la­tion, ex­perts have said.

In North Wales, one of the rep­tile’s last re­main­ing strongholds, work has started to cre­ate a 150me­tre-long stretch of road­side verge in Hi­raethog, where snakes will be pro­tected un­der a “spe­cific habi­tat man­age­ment plan”.

Type cast

The coun­cil, which al­ready op­er­ates road­side re­serves for wild plants and flow­ers, said it hoped its ap­proach would be rolled out across the coun­try.

How­ever, or­gan­is­ers ad­mit­ted they faced a bat­tle to change pub­lic per­cep­tions about the snakes, which they said of­ten came un­der at­tack from peo­ple scared of their venom.

Joel Wal­ley, the project’s ar­chi­tect, said peo­ple killed adders, which are pro­tected by law, “out of fear”.

He said: “They are fas­ci­nat­ing an­i­mals, with com­plex ecol­ogy and be­hav­iours, and they are not dan­ger­ous un­less they feel threat­ened. Peo­ple are still scared of them and harm them, tra­di­tional lands are lost and they have quite a slow re­pro­duc­tive cy­cle.”

Mr Wal­ley, an ecol­ogy of­fi­cer at the coun­cil, blamed the adder’s im­age prob­lem on rep­re­sen­ta­tions of snakes in films and TV pro­grammes, cit­ing In­di­ana Jones as an ex­am­ple.

“[Snakes] are big scary things in the me­dia. Peo­ple think they are sort of slimy but they are re­ally beau­ti­ful things,” he said.

Last month, the Am­phib­ian and Rep­tile Groups of the UK de­clared a “whole gen­er­a­tion’s at­ti­tude” needed to change to pre­vent adders from ex­tinc­tion, as it hosted a se­ries of work­shops with chil­dren in Pem­brokeshire.

An­gela Ju­lian, na­tional co-or­di­na­tor, said adders were “gen­er­ally not in a good state in Bri­tain”, be­cause of the “his­toric per­se­cu­tion” of habi­tats.

Ac­cord­ing to the Wild­wood Trust, 12 peo­ple have died after adder bites in Bri­tain, with the last fa­tal­ity un­der­stood to have been in Scot­land in 1975.

The Chartres Bi­ble is among 800 manuscripts from 700AD-1200AD on­line for the first time in a project by the Bri­tish Li­brary and the na­tional li­brary of France.

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