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Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 150510498

Ethnoconservation of the Greek Meadow Viper and sustainable human use of alpine habitats in the Albanian Highlands

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 150510498) - Greek Meadow Viper - Awarded $3,810 on April 22, 2015

We made a poster "Snakes of Albania" to raise awareness, and distributed to different schools, institutes around the country, which hopefully will change attitudes to be much "snake friendly". We have placed 84 posters until now, but we have ~400 left, which will be distributed in the upcoming years.

We reached 43 shepherds personally in the project. We collected socio-economical knowledge and raised awareness on nature conservation and sustainable land use. We found many shepherd has a human-wildlife conflict with snakes, and we helped with biological knowledge to use a grazing activity to avoid encounters with active, sunbathing vipers.

We have analysed the effects of land use type and intensity on the habitats’ biomass production and presence of Greek meadow viper. Our results showed that the viper prefers less grazed areas, however grazing activity is present at all known habitats. Grazing has a homogenizing effect on the habitat, causes a biodiversity loss and changes the structure of the microhabitat, which, in turn, reduces abundance and diversity of the orthopteran fauna. As the target species feeds exclusively on orthopterans, the condition of the grassland which is directly affected by grazing has a crucial impact on the snakes. As grazing activity is present at all known habitats this information can lead to the better management of alpine meadows which also serve as habitat for threatened species.

We continued our monitoring in Trebeshine Mountain at our grazing-exclusion sites. We recorded 71 vipers in and around the fences. We have collected main prey material of the species, which - based on new results of the project - seems to be highly specialised to orthopterans. Further research is needed to analyse the relation of prey availability and grazing pressure.

Finally we continued our mapping to find new populations and do habitat assessments. We have visited until the end 2016 all habitats in Albania and Greece, and collected a data from more than 200 vipers, from 17 populations. Due to global warming alpine climate zones shifting upwards on the mountain slopes, reducing of areas of alpine and sub-alpine habitats. A modelling based on the available presence data combined with climate variables predicts dramatic decline, 90% habitat loss for the end of the century.

Project document