The adder (Vipera berus), which is highly endangered in Germany, is the reptile of the year 2024. It is the only snake that can still be found beyond the Arctic Circle, said the German Society for Herpetology and Terrarium Science (DGHT), based in Salzhemmendorf in Lower Saxony. "The cold-loving species is therefore also seen as a loser from climate change." In Germany their living space is dwindling.
The rare poisonous snake can be recognized by its zigzag band on its back and its vertical pupils. The females, which are up to 90 centimeters long, are colored in brownish tones, while the males, which are up to 60 centimeters long, are colored light to silver gray. They are often confused with the non-poisonous smooth snake. Their menu includes lizards, frogs and small mammals. Their biggest enemies are wild boars, martens and buzzards.
“The viviparous species has the largest distribution area of all snakes in the world and, in several subspecies, inhabits a huge area in Europe and Asia,” reported the DGHT. It extends from England to the Russian island of Sakhalin. "In addition to the aspis viper, which is threatened with extinction in the southern Black Forest, the adder is the only poisonous snake in Germany."
However, bite accidents are very rare and are hardly dangerous or fatal for healthy people. "The bites can be painful and cause local symptoms such as swelling." It is important to stay calm and seek medical treatment if necessary.
According to the DGHT, the snake is active during the day and can be found primarily in moorland areas, forest edges and clearings. However, according to experts, their habitat is dwindling due to intensive agriculture and the drainage of the moors. Forest paths and roads are difficult obstacles for them to overcome, so that the individual populations can no longer mix with each other. There are larger populations of adders in the northern German lowlands, in the eastern low mountain ranges and in parts of southern Germany such as the Alps, the Black Forest or the Bavarian Forest.
Killed systematically in the past
Around 120 years ago, catch bonuses were offered and tens of thousands of poisonous snakes were killed every year, according to DGHT managing director Axel Kwet from Fellbach near Stuttgart. Even an adder extermination association was founded. Today the snake species is highly endangered in Germany and needs special protection.
The reptile or amphibian of the year has been chosen alternately since 2006. The choice is intended to draw attention to the endangerment of native animals. According to its own information, the DGHT has more than 5,000 members worldwide. The association is committed to researching amphibians and reptiles, their competent keeping and breeding, and species and nature conservation.