Habitat loss threatens critically endangered viper
Turkey’s unique and critically endangered Anatolian meadow viper is under threat from serious habitat loss caused by various factors, including the opening of new stone quarries, according to an expert.
Thanks to climatic and geographical conditions, the fauna of Turkey is abundant and extremely varied and includes many rare and endemic species. But in Turkey, as in other parts of the world, such species struggle to survive under various threats such as climate change, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Mert Karış, an expert on herpetology, the branch of zoology concerned with reptiles and amphibians, said the first member of the species was discovered in 1970 in the Çığlıkara Nature Reserve, located in the Antalya province.
“Anatolian meadow viper, also known by its Latin name Vipera anatolica, lives only within the areas of Antalya province at an altitude of 1,500 to 2,500 meters in the Central and Western Taurus Mountains,” said Karış.
The species can be found in forests with karst limestones and glade, he said in the interview taken for the Endangered Species Day, marked annually on the third Friday of May.
After first being spotted, it disappeared for 40 years until 2014. But Karış once again spotted the species and determined its existence in the Çığlıkara forests.
“Then, two years later, we discovered that there was a new population in the Geyik Mountains in the Central Taurus, as in 2017 it was recorded in scientific records as a new subspecies of the Anatolian viper,” he said.
The endemic Anatolian meadow viper is listed as a critically endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Karış pointed out the danger of habitat loss that can be caused by various factors such as climate change, mining activities, and transhumance.
“Since the habitats of these species are mostly in the higher altitudes and there is a transhumance culture in the higher parts of the Taurus, the people should do their activities in a controlled manner so as not to harm this species and there is need for being more careful while, establishing new settlements and grazing animals,” he noted.
Touching on mining activity as another threat, he stated that there are stone quarries in the region that pose danger to the habitats of Anatolian vipers.
“In fact, as a result of our work, we succeeded and got a stay order for mining activity. However, the opening of such new quarries should be prevented,” he added.
He went on to say that global warming, caused by climate change, prevents the distribution of this species like many others, and will force the species to be stuck in that area.