A Guest Post On Snakes And Science

We have a guest post for the third day running…. this is from District Councillor John Mason – about a personal scientific project he has been working on in Cyprus….

Protecting Snakes And Humans

Chris Black, the Editor of OnlineFOCUS spotted a personal video clip of mine on the internet which was about my friend Snake George who was testing a snake deterrent that I had designed.

He invited me to write an article about this diversity in my interests.

My family’s interest in Cyprus is that we spend many of our holidays there and having been an amateur herpetologist since I was 7 it was no surprise that I went to meet Snake George, real name Hans Jorg Wiedl, at his Reptile Park about 12 years ago now. George is an expert in the Snakes, Lizards and Amphibians of Cyprus. He has written many articles and at least two books.

Snake George (Hans-Jorg Wiedl) re-discovered the Cyprus Grass Snake after it had been thought extinct for nearly 40 years. Secondly he proved that the most venomous snake on Cyprus, the Blunt Nose Viper lays eggs, other than bearing live young as it had been thought and apparently proven.

George has been working hard to win the right from the Cyprus Government to establish a conservation and breeding project to save the Cyprus Grass Snake from extinction. I have run a Petition at the EU Parliament to bring this into focus for action before it is too late. There are some articles that I have written about this on http://rochfordessex.com/cyprusreptiles

Many people in Cyprus are frightened of snakes and, despite education, this will probably remain so for several generations.

The worst part is that all snakes suffer from indiscriminate killing, even the harmless ones!!

This is placing all species at risk and especially now in Cyprus the Large Whip Snake (harmless) which is a natural predator, ironically, of the Blunt Nosed Viper which is the only venomous snake in Cyprus that can endanger human life.

George and I were having coffee at the New Roots Garden Centre near Coral Bay one morning and he lamented that the product that he had been selling on as Snake Buster was ShooSnake (I think) from Australia and he had been banned for importing this by the Cyprus Authorities. He reckoned that a repellent would still help conserve snakes as they would not frequent areas where people do not want them. I agreed to research the substances used in current products under safety for use in the environment and that which could be imported into Cyprus with a chemical license and distribute for use as a pesticide.

The EU fairly recently banned practically every pesticide previously in use and licensed in the EU, which includes Cyprus.

The product that I have produced has been tested initially by George. There is scientific data which backs up the recommendation I made on the basis of my research.

There are a number of commercial snake repellents on sale in Cyprus. Some are electronic. It is not clear whether Cyprus has any natural safe snake repellents available to help people ward off snakes from their homes, business premises and gardens. If the snakes are repelled from the place then everyone is happy, especially the human.

It is a CONSERVATION PROJECT????it conserves and protects both snakes and humans!!

There are harmful materials that people might use but these are also harmful to the human species!! And environmentally dangerous.

With the knowledge I had gained at QMC, London and the ecology of Cyprus snakes I had learnt since then my independent research has been undertaken on ancient ethnobotanical archives in order to derive such a product with the safest possible attributes.
It does not involve chemicals only plant extracts which are safe for both humans and the environment but repel snakes. My research has produced a product that achieves these objectives. This is a very important project for Cyprus given the issues that humans have with snakes. I would welcome any input offered on the commercial aspects of this project.

About the author, admin

  • John , when I was on Cyprus a few years ago I glimpsed a black snake near some bushes on the coast near Paralimini It moved very quickly. What would it have been? I don’t remember any markings…. just all black

  • Thank you for inviting me to write an article on a completely different subject to those about my local council role.

    Chris, the most likely species you encountered would be the Large Whip snake is the most common of Cypriot snakes. It can reach a length of up to 2.5m which makes it the longest snake in Europe.The adult snake is completely black with more or less blueish iridescence. If disturbed the snake coils into a spiral and attacks whilst hissing loudly. I have certainly witnessed this personally whilst walking towards what I thought was a shiny new coil of jet black irrigation pipe left lying around. The snake and I were both surprised at the prescence of each other when at a distance of just 2 metres this large snake went into defence mode and reared up to 1.5m high fiercely hissing and snorting. It was an amazing experience. I have encountered many since but have never seen this behaviour because mostly all snakes will disappear as soon as possible.

    The Large Whip Snake helpfully controls the populations of vermin and the only venomous snake in Cyprus that is dangerous to humans, the Blunt Nosed Viper. No one has died in recent years because anti venom is held at all hospitals. But a bite results usually in a week or so in hospital and I have talked to people who have had this experience. I have photographs of the injuries caused but I am loathe to publish these because it could be counter productive to our conservation movement and stimulate still further persecution. If pets get bitten then it is usually fatal I understand. I am considering how to use the repellent formula in a dog spray. But the snake usually slithers away if it is disturbed but in the spring and early winter they can be more lethargic and the behaviour more likely to strike. Hence the snake repellent.

    Here are some videos about the harmless Large Whip Snake so that you can remind yourself about your encounter !!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=25tYcO76chA

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=cVc_qTD7GqI

    You mentioned Paralimni. It is in the herpetological headlines at the moment.

    The Government of the Republic of Cyprus has recently been taken to the European Court citing failure to protect the endangered Cyprus Grass Snake at Xyliatos and Paralimni. As a formal Peititoner at the EU Parliament on the EU responsibility to ensure the conservation of endangered species I am kept informed of actions and decisions. Basically the Cyprus Government was found guilty but that will not bring this species back from extinction if that is what has happened. The Cyprus Government has funded, with EU grants, the beginning of a breeding programme appointing a Greek Scientist in Crete but is there any viable breeding stock with endemic genome to be found? In that respect I find myself collaborating with DNA Mapping specialist scientists in Spain.

  • Not sure if anybody is interested but I am selling Crocodile repellent, just to show how good it is when was the last time you saw a Crocodile in Rayleigh…..only £5.99 a jar….

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