03 June 2005

South Africa embarks on reptile mapping project

South Africa is re-counting its snakes, crocodiles, tortoises, lizards and other endangered reptile species for the first time in 16 years.

The four-year project, which will involve reptile experts from around the country aims to produce a comprehensively-updated reptile conservation atlas.

Members of the public will also be invited to take part in the project by submitting digital photographs and accurate GPS location readings.

"We know very little about the conservation status of reptiles, despite the fact that South Africa has an extremely rich collection of 360 species from 22 reptile families," said Kristal Maze, planning director at the SA Biodiversity Institute.

"Gathering this information is essential for future conservation action, which is likely to include new regulations for the pet trade and reducing habitat loss for reptiles."

Since the last mapping exercise in 1988 several new species had been discovered, while there were also major information gaps for several endangered reptile types, according Wits University researcher Professor Graham Alexander.

The remapping project will be co-ordinated by the Avian Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town, which recently produced a similar atlas on bird and frog distribution.

For more information and details on how the public can help the project, visit www.saherps.net

Source: www.iol.co.za


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