The Karst Viper in Croatia

06 August 2013 | Article

The Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii) is the smallest European viper that has fragmented and isolated distribution through Europe. Its venom is not harmful to humans since it eats crickets and grasshoppers. The Croatian Herpetological Society - Hyla is working on the conservation of its subspecies, the Karst Viper (V.u. macrops), a Balkan endemic species that inhabits high mountain grasslands of the Dinaric Arc.

Between 2005 and 2008. the Hyla team was focusing on determination of the Karst Viper distribution range, searching for vipers in mountain areas that were assumed to be good habitats for this subspecies. Six isolated localities where this animal lives were identified. In 2009. the Conservation of the Karst Viper project was initiated, focusing on data collection on the biology and population size of this subspecies. Hyla has also established the ongoing cooperation with colleagues in France, Italy, Hungary, Serbia and FYR Macedonia that work on this interesting species in their countries.

Working on the data collection in the Velebit mountain with the support of National Park Paklenica in the course of five years Hyla used the capture-mark-recapture method to estimate the population size of this subspecies, collect DNA and swab samples of mouth, and make the cloaca and venom bacterial analysis.

In cooperation with the Zagreb ZOO Hyla established the research and conservation centre, used for keeping the captured Karst Viper gravid females that provided more information on their reproduction. All vipers were returned healthy and safe into the wild. This initial data gathered on the Karst Viper in Croatia was used for elaboration of the first conservation action plan for this species in the country.

In the Zagreb ZOO Hyla continued to educate people about snakes. In 2011 an exhibition was set on Vipers in Croatia, introducing the Karst Viper project and two other venomous snakes in Croatia, the Nose-horned Viper (V.ammodytes) and the Adder (V.berus). A year later the exhibition was enlarged introducing all the snakes that live in Croatia.