Update from the Viper Specialist Group


Atheris mabuensis photo by Dr Bill Branch_resized.jpg

In 2010, under the direction of Dr. Chris Jenkins, 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, to serve as a global voice for implementing viper conservation. At the 2012 World Congress of Herpetology in Vancouver, Canada, the VSG met for their first in-person meeting to discuss things such as the structure of the group, to determine VSG regions, the state of the viper by regions, and to begin discussing the appointment of regional coordinators.

Since the last meeting, the officers have designated specific regions based on where vipers occur, ecological boundaries, political boundaries, language, and IUCN office designation. Once complete the Deputy Chair reached out to potential Regional Coordinator candidates to ask if they would be interested in filling these positions.

This resulted in the following individuals acting as Coordinators for the following regions:

Jelka Crnobrnja Isailovic jelka.c.i@gmail.com European Regional Coordinator
Jesus Sigala jjsigala@gmail.com Mesoamerican Regional Coordinator
Marcio Martins martinsmrc@usp.br South America Regional Coordinator
Pritpal Singh Soorae psoorae@ead.ae North Africa/West Asia Regional Coordinator
Rulon Clark rclark@mail.sdsu.edu North America Regional Coordinator
Sanjay Molur herpinvert@gmail.com Asia Regional Coordinator
Bill Branch williamroybranch@gmail.com Africa Regional Coordinator

The Regional Coordinator is considered a catalyst position that recruits and works with members in their individual regions and works with the officers to disseminate research in these regions to the public and other VSG members. Regional Coordinator responsibilities include developing regional VSG members, identifying species that require new or updated assessments within their region, working with officers to establish conservation action plans, and passing broader VSG related news on to the VSG members in their region.

  Enlarge Photo
VSG Member Dr. Bill Branch

Officers, Regional Coordinators, and Members of the VSG are so because it is their passion and they truly believe in the need for the long-term protection and conservation of the world’s vipers. Though these are well-known and established members of the conservation community, none of them are paid to participate in the group. They do so because venomous reptiles are one of the most misunderstood and heavily persecuted groups of animals in the world. 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, 4 species are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora Appendices I, II, or III; 1 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 more in decline than the current lists suggest.

If you are interested in becoming a general member of the VSG, please contact the regional coordinator from your region at the e-mail address listed above or you can contact the Program Manager of the VSG, Heidi Hall at hhall@oriannesociety.org