17th Oct 2016

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, together with our partner organisation, Amphibian and Reptile Groups of UK (ARG UK) co-hosted a very special meeting in Somerset in October, to discuss how best to conserve the adder, arguably the most vulnerable of our native reptiles.

This unique forum gathered together over 140 adder practitioners from the NGO sector, statutory bodies, land managers, ecological consultants, academic institutions, and enthusiastic volunteers; to network and debate adder conservation through a series of presentations, discussions, workshops and interactive sessions.

Introduced by ARC’s CEO Tony Gent, the meeting started with a summary of the strategic challenges facing adder conservation delivered by our Conservation Director, Jim Foster. This was followed by an overview of the national status of adders, based on a research questionnaire, which highlighted a worrying decline in adder numbers since the 1980s and 90s that was mainly attributed to disturbance and unsympathetic habitat management.

The programme then reviewed a number of aspects of adder conservation including: insights from survey and research; the challenges of managing landscapes sympathetically for adders, alongside other sometimes conflicting demands from other users and multi species conservation;  the issues surrounding public interactions with adders; how the adder is protected in law, and ways in which the regulatory framework supports this; and the processes of translocation and mitigation driven by conservation and commercial development.

We heard about some ingenious solutions to some of the challenges posed, including using volunteer survey data to target specific areas for adder conservation; promoting less invasive scrub clearing techniques; changing grazing practices to lower their impact and lighting fires more thoughtfully. An interesting idea from Hounslow Heath was of encouraging the local community to feel pride in their local adders.

The meeting outcomes will include a review of how we frame our messaging concerning adders, and how we can encourage the wider public to interact with them in a less conflicted way, based on the workshop held by Mark Barber and Pete Hill, our two ARC Wales Dragonscapes Officers.  In addition, the final session gathered feedback from the floor to create a ‘mind map’ of all the factors that were felt to be important for adder conservation. These will be iterated by an expert panel using the Delphi process, and Richard Griffiths will present the results at the next Herpetofauna Workers Meeting, which will be held in February 2017 in Nottingham.

Angela Julian
Communications Manager