W is for Wagner’s Viper
This stunning photo of a female and two young Wagner’s vipers is by Mario Schweiger, and is used by permission.
Wagner’s viper was first discovered and described by German naturalist Moritz Wagner in 1846. Sadly he mislabelled the specimen’s place of habitat and so it was unseen for another 140 years, and presumed extinct. Then it was rediscovered on a road in eastern Turkey, its actual habitat, where it now lives mainly in one river valley about 1,600 and 1,900m above sea level.
Unfortunately, due to its rather attractive colouring, and rarity value, publication of the whereabouts of this beautiful snake brought a massive number of collectors to the area, mainly from Europe. They took large numbers of snakes, especially gravid females. So many in fact, that over succeeding years the snake suffered a devastating loss to its population.
Worried scientists worked to get the snake listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bans international trade of species without export permits. But sadly 80% of these snakes had already disappeared. Furthermore a dam on the river in its territory threatened to destroy its habitat.
Today the snake is classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and zoos (Saint Louis Zoo in particular) have instituted a breeding programme to bring the snake back from the brink.
Here is my poem:
On the rocky mountain slopes
around the rivers and the lake,
in coils of camouflaging scales
dwells the Wagner’s viper snake,
but every year more disappear
their future has been sold,
for the beauty of their souls
has been drawn in bronze and gold.
© Liz Brownlee
Image © Mario Schweiger and used by permission.
Prose and Poem © Liz Brownlee, all rights reserved, not to be used in any manner whatsoever without the permission of the author.