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Good news for Cyprus’ unique water snake

snake
The Natrix Natrix Cypriaca is found only in Cyprus

The places where Cyprus’ unique but endangered water snake (Natrix Natrix Cypriaca) live have increased significiantly, according to environmental group Terra Cypria.

A study carried out by the group in autumn 2020 and published on Thursday revealed that the endemic water snakes were found for the first time ever near the Pedieos and Gialia rivers and that its presence increased near the Serahis river, one of its natural habitats.

The study was carried out by Terra Cypria in collaboration with the government’s environmental department and was co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the government.

“The previously known main areas of distribution of the snake were the Paralimni lake, and the Maroullenas and Serahis,” said Dr Savvas Zotos, the head of the study.

“However, we received reports of an increase of the snake’s presence in areas where it has never been spotted before and we had to start research to update our reports.”

Among the most important findings of the research were that some specimens were also found eight kilometres upstream from where they were usually found in the Serahis river.

“Moreover, some very young specimen were also found within the boundaries of the Natura 2000 protected area of the Machairas forest, where both the Pedieos and Gialia rivers originate from.”

Zotos said that the new data collected indicate the urgent need for additional research to obtain information on the snake’s nutritional behaviour, population size, age structure and reproductive capacity, in order to have an integrated picture on the sustainability of its populations.

The Cypriot water snake is protected by national and EU laws, is a rare species, endemic, and exists only in Cyprus.

It can reach up to one metre in length and is completely harmless. Its only defence is to secrete an unpleasant smell from a liquid from its glands to prevent predators from approaching or catching it. It has neither poison nor is it aggressive.

 

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