Expedición primavera 2011: De regreso…

Part of the team has returned with the memory cards full of pictures and videos, while another part continue in Morocco in search of the elusive Varanus and the mythical Echis.

From the logistics point of view, the trip was from the beginning a complete disaster, with one of the cars, a Land Rover Defender, broken down just as we touched African soil, forcing us to completely rethink the trip and to go towards the SW instead of SE as planned.

However, the bad luck with our vehicles contrasted with the good luck with herpetofauna, despite the setbacks we found and photographed some of the most emblematic species of reptiles of Morocco.

Cobra Norteafricana (Naja haje legionis)

Before doing an exhaustive account, to confirm the identifications and waiting for the rest of the team to return, the list of species observed and photographed (alive) can be summarized as follows:

Pelophylax saharicus
Bufo mauritanicus
Bufo boulengeri
Pleurodeles waltl
Hyla meridionalis
Discoglossus scovazzi
Testudo graeca
Chamaeleo chamaeleon
Hyalosaurus koellikeri
Tarentola mauritanica
Tarentola chazaliae
Saurodactylus brosseti
Natrix maura
Boaedon fuliginosus
Hemorrhois algirus
Naja haje legionis
Bitis arietans
Chalcides polylepis
Chalcides sphenopsiformis
Acanthodactylus maculatus
Acanthodactylus lineomaculatus
Acanthodactylus aureus

To this list must be added numerous citations of species found on the roads run over, drowned in in cisterns, or stoned by local people: Dasypeltis sahelensis, Scutophis moilensis, etc…

Expedición primavera 2011 al SE de Marruecos

Taking advantage of the late Easter vacations this year, the team of www.moroccoherps.com is embarking in a new herpetology expedition to the north of Africa. The idea is to prospect the arid SE visiting Figuig and the Tigri and Chebbi ergs, although the route is flexible and we will decide at the moment depending on the meteorology, the cars, Islamic revolutions and other unexpected problems.

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When we get back we hope to show here a good collection of photographs of cobras, desert Varanus, and other species, probably not so famous, but not less fascinating. If as usual, the cobras and Varanus do not appear, at least we will have some tales to tell.

Myriopholis algeriensis, la extraña serpiente vermiforme

In the species section you can find the working file of Myriopholis algeriensis.

It is a surprising case of multiple convergent evolutions, to the fossorial apoda lizards, we have to add a family of strange fossorial snakes that look, yes… like worms.

The Leptotyphlopidae, whose only representative in Morocco and Western Sahara is Myriopholis algeriensis, although the family groups nearly one hundred species distributed in America, Africa and Asia, are real small size snakes that are extremely thin and have interesting adaptations to their way of life.

Myriopholis algeriensis. Errachidia (Morocco). 2007. Photo: © Gabri Mtnez.

Little is known about the presence of Myriopholis algeriensis in Morocco and Western Sahara more than a few individual findings; however the difficulty in detecting this species could have contributed to this more than its real distribution and abundance.

More information in the Myriopholis algeriensis file.

Blanus tingitanus, la culebrilla ciega de Tánger

In the species section you can find the working file of Blanus tingitanus.

Ficha de Blanus tingitanus

The taxonomy of this group of subterranean legless lizards is far from being resolved and recent studies show that the Tangier Worm Lizard are a lot closer related to the Iberian Worm Lizard than thought before, even questioning the validity of the species.

More information in the Blanus tingitanus file.

La víbora bufadora o monarub

In the species section you can find the working file of Bitis arietans.

The Puff Adder or monarub (Bitis arietans) is a hefty viper with a wide distribution in Africa that presents some relic populations in Morocco, of great interest, although greatly endangered.

File of Bitis arietans

The run overs and  incontrolated captures to serve as tourist amusement in places like the Djemma El-Fna square is putting these populations close to their extintion.

Geographic range of Bitis arietans

When we travel to Marrakech or similar cities, we should remember that every coin we give to snake-charmers contributes to take two emblematic species, the Puff Adder from NW Africa and the Moroccan Black Cobra, a step closer to extinction.

If we ask the snake charmers, they will swear over the health of their children that they love the snakes and treat them like of their family, as they make a living of them. The reality is very different, and the snakes agonize several weeks, after their fangs are taken out with pliers, with their head inflamed because of the sores and the infection, dying shortly after and being replaced by other captured in the wild. This has greatly reduced the populations of both species.  In the photographic report by Michel Aymerich you can see with which extreme cruelty these animals are treated in these type of spectacles.

If vipers normaly have bad press, Bitis arietans is suposed to be the snake that more human deaths produces in África, although they are no oficial statistics, and in many countries they are no statistics at all.

More information in the Bitis arientans file.

Nace www.moroccoherps.com

We are happy to launch www.moroccoherps.com, a newly designed WEB that hopes to host in a single space all the information and the most complete collection of species descriptions about the reptiles and amphibians of Morocco and the Western Sahara.

Map of the land studied here

The northwestern part of the African continent is special for the richness and variety of its amphibian and reptile fauna, being considered as a real hotspot of biodiversity. Unfortunately, because of the socioeconomic circumstances of the area the protection of its nature richness is not a priority of the local authorities, the imminent and future economic development of the area, especially in the North, with changes in the mode of resources exploitation and the transformation of their traditional activities, foretell important menaces for the wild flora and fauna.

The reptiles and amphibians that include many endemisms (species that cannot be found in any other place of the world) together with relic isolated populations of subtropical species with a great genetic interest are especially vulnerable to brusque changes in agriculture and cattle farming techniques and to habitat transformation, like the development of extensive monocultures o mechanization, and the uncontrolled urbanization of coastal areas.

This WEB page pretends to contribute to improve the knowledge, poor in many cases, about the herp species in the area, a necessary and previous step towards their protection.

With at least 115 species present in the area, many of them not studied, this is a very ambitious project with a lot of work in front of us. We have started publishing some sketches of species pages that will pass to a definitive status as the information they contain is completed, revised and validated. The species page of de Emys orbicularis inaugurates our collection of pages about the amphibians and reptiles of Morocco and the Western Sahara.

Emys orbicularis opens the list of pages published about the Amphibians and Reptiles of Morocco and Western Sahara.

We pretend to give a detailed description of each species to permit its identification and differentiation from other similar ones. Furthermore, the species pages will include the ecology and habits, the distribution area and the abundance of the studied species, the state of conservation of the known populations, the menaces they have, and all illustrated with many original photographs shot by the authors and collaborators team. The information we include does not only come from the revision of existing bibliography, but it will be completed with our personal observations and own data from the authors of the WEB.

We animate all people interested in amphibians and reptiles to collaborate sending photos, cites, observations or any other data, to link and give publicity to the WEB, to comment in the blog and to subscribe via the RSS chanel, Twitter or Facebook, to be informed of actualizations, articles, activities and new species pages published in the WEB.