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Introduction to SARCA
(Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment)

by James Harrison

Avian Demography Unit, University of Cape Town

SARCA was launched on 10 May 2005 and will be completed in four years. The lead institution is the South African Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) while the Avian Demography Unit (ADU) is the institution principally responsible for carrying out the work. However, SARCA will depend heavily on the collaboration of all herpetologists and herpetological institutions in the region, as well as the participation of members of the public.

The projectís aim is to improve our understanding of the diversity and distribution of reptiles in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, and thereby make possible an improvement in the conservation status of these animals.

  Bradypodion pumilum Bradypodion pumilum - endemic species

Why is SARCA necessary? There are a number of reasons. The region comprising South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland has an exceptional diversity of reptiles: 363+ species (5% of the global total), or approximately five times what one would expect based on land area alone. Levels of endemism are extremely high, with 130 (36%) species being endemic to the three-country region. Clearly this region has a special responsibility in reptile conservation.

Despite these statistics, reptiles tend to be overlooked in conservation plans. This is due, in part, to the fact that available information is very incomplete and not easy to access. Existing distributional information for the regionís reptiles has not been adequately collated and integrated into a single database.

Furthermore, the Red Data book for reptiles (Branch 1988) is out of date because many new species have since been added to the list, and the latest internationally accepted IUCN assessment criteria have not yet been applied to the regionís reptiles. It is believed that many additional species are Threatened, and there is a clear need to undertake new surveys to improve the information base from which assessments can be done.

Reptiles in general, and snakes in particular, tend to be unpopular with the general public, and their conservation status suffers as a result. SARCA aims to improve public awareness of the value and plight of these creatures and also provide conservation agencies with a clear definition of conservation priorities that will help them to plan their activities.

SARCAís methods

SARCA will communicate with its participants and the public at large through this website.

The SARCA database will be compiled from existing data (to be found mainly in museum collections and in the herpetological literature) as well as new data collected in the field. Experienced herpetologists will be invited to assist the Project Herpetologist in the laboratory and in the field.

The project database will be used to create distribution maps for every species. These maps will be a vital tool in the conservation assessment process which will take place in the second half of the project. This will culminate in the publication of a conservation assessment report for the regionís reptiles. The report will have a distribution map and conservation assessment for each species, as well as a "conservation hotspot" analysis based on the whole database, and recommendations for future monitoring of reptile populations.

If you think that you can make a contribution to SARCA, click here to find out more.




[ last updated on 5-May-2005 ]

    April 16, 2024, 11:25 pm