Flagship Species: The Southern Adder

Southern Adder

Flagship Species: The Southern Adder

Southern Africa has an incredible diversity of reptile fauna with a minimum of 517 species that have so far been described. These include 151 snakes, 338 lizards, 27 tortoises and one crocodile. Many more species are still awaiting description in the scientific literature and, sadly, many of these reptiles have largely been ignored in conservation management plans and require special attention in the future.

The Cape Floristic Kingdom is home to a number of these newly described species and it was only in 1997 that the Southern Adder was found to be a separate species from the similar looking Many Horned Adder. The Southern Adder is restricted to low lying coastal fynbos in the Southern Cape between the Breede River in the east and Agulhas National Park in the west. A separate population is thought to occur in the West Coast National Park and scientific work is still being undertaken to determine if this is actually the same or a separate species. Sadly, coastal development is a major threat to this little known species and across its range only limited patches of suitable habitat remain. Fortunately this does include three protected areas.

Only reaching 33cm in length, it is most active in the early morning and late evening, preying on small lizards. Uniquely, it has a prehensile tail that allows it to climb into the tops of bushes where it ambushes Red-Sided Skinks that come to sun themselves. Larger adult snakes have also been recorded feeding on small rodents. Very little is known about the Southern Adders breeding, but one record shows six live young being born.

 

Peter Chadwick

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