IUCN Viper Specialist Group

The Orianne Society teamed with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to form The Viper Specialist Group (VSG) – a group of viper specialists from around the world. Together, with these individuals, we will serve as a global voice for implementing viper conservation.

Venomous reptiles are one of the most misunderstood and heavily persecuted groups of animals in the world. There are over 250 species of vipers distributed across all continents with the exception of Australia and Antarctica. The majority of these species are declining in populations. Twelve percent of vipers (32 species) are listed by the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered. In addition, four species are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora Appendices I, II, or III; one species of rattlesnake is listed under the United States Endangered Species Act, and the majority of vipers in Europe (10 species) are listed under Appendix II of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. Given that snakes are difficult to study and are generally considered a lower conservation priority than most taxa, we also think that the status of many viper species is in significant need of updating. Thus, vipers may be of a greater conservation concern than the current lists suggest.

There are many threats that are common across viper species, including direct human persecution, collection for the pet trade, habitat loss and fragmentation, and climate change. Many vipers are considered capital breeders that have life histories characterized by relatively late ages to maturity, long intervals between pregnancies, and low fecundity, relative to other snakes, which may make them especially vulnerable to many of the threats they face. Finally, one of the greatest hurdles to conserving vipers is changing widespread public perception that vipers are something to be feared.