IUCN Viper Specialist Group
The Orianne Society recently 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.
The Orianne Society's role in the VSG
The VSG was officially formed in February of 2010 and, soon after, invitations were sent to a network of world experts on viper conservation inviting them to join in developing and implementing a vision for viper conservation on a global scale. The structure of the VSG will include a board, steering committee, and general membership.
|The current VSG board is as follows:|
|Steve Spearemail@example.com||Deputy Chair|
|Heidi Hallfirstname.lastname@example.org||Program Manager|
|Johannes Penner||Johannes.Penner@mfn-berlin.de||Red List Authority Coordinator|
|Jelka Crnobrnja Isailovicemail@example.com||European Regional Coordinator|
|Jesus Sigalafirstname.lastname@example.org||Mesoamerican Regional Coordinator|
|Marcio Martinsemail@example.com||South America Regional Coordinator|
|Pritpal Singh Sooraefirstname.lastname@example.org||North Africa/West Asia Regional Coordinator|
|Rulon Clarkemail@example.com||North America Regional Coordinator|
|Sanjay Molurfirstname.lastname@example.org||Asia Regional Coordinator|
|Bill Branchemail@example.com||Africa Regional Coordinator|
The first item on the VSG agenda is to hold an initial meeting where the group will begin to develop an overall strategic plan and to develop a status assessment and conservation action plan for the world’s vipers. The group will also begin to discuss developing a series of focal initiatives using one developed by The Orianne Society to conserve Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes as a model for discussion purposes. The Orianne Society is searching out potential donors and fundraising opportunities. If anyone has suggestions regarding potential funding, your input would be greatly appreciated. The first meeting will be held at either the IUCN Headquarters in Switzerland, or at The Orianne Headquarters in Georgia, USA. Subsequent meetings may be held in conjunction with either the World Congress of Herpetology or the Snake Ecology meetings.
Please send recommendations on funding or sponsor opportunities, or to inquire about VSG generally membership, to firstname.lastname@example.org