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The Future of Herps

Our Plans for Amphibians and Reptiles

amphibs and reptiles

Gambia's Herps

The Gambia has a rich herps fauna with 107 species comprising 33 species of amphibians and 74 species of reptile, including crocodiles, snakes, turtles, tortoise, terrapins, chameleons, worm lizards, monitors, and skinks. These are the species known to occur, but research in The Gambia on this group is extremely limited and it is likely that additional species will be found in coming years.

We plan to continue working with our good friend, Luc, owner of Reptile Education Centre in Kartong, and start running specific herpetology research expeditions to use a wide range of techniques (e.g., drift fencing, torchlight surveys) to survey the herps populations of different areas, including areas that have not previously been surveyed and the few areas that have (to allow detection of population changes).

Slender-Snouted Crocodile

The status of the third species, the African slender-snouted crocodile (Crocodylus cataphractus) is unknown. In the review of the status of this species, the IUCN does not list it as present in The Gambia (and it is not on the distribution map). However, we believe it is still present in some areas away from the coast. As this species is critically endangered, one of the last categories before extinct it is vital that surveys are performed at the earliest opportunity and suitable conservation measures introduced if they are found.

Armitage’s skink

Despite reasonably comprehensive collecting in The Gambia, until 2008 all that was known about Armitage's skink (Chalcides armitagei)​​ globally came from 4 specimens, all collected in The Gambia. It was later shown to also occur in Senegal and Guinea Bissau in the same limited habitat (usually the transition zone between sandy beach and soil). It is rarely seen as it “swims” below ground almost all of the time and is easily confused with snakes, with a long snake-like body and only very small legs.  

Its very specific habitat requirements result in very limited distribution. The areas where it is found are under pressure from coastal development, which, apart from direct loss of habitat, is likely to fragment remaining populations. It is not known how significant the building of roads and walls etc., are in limiting the movements of this species, but this must be researched as the threat of urbanisation is ongoing. Future developments could then look at mitigation measures to prevent the local or even global extinction of this fascinating lizard. We continue developing our methods for studying this secretive species and are collecting records to map its distribution and assess its status.

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Armitage's skink at the Reptile Education Centre, Kartong.

Green Mamba

As part of our project work, we make sure that our team collects information on any key species encountered and all of our staff are familiar with which species require special attention. This is particularly useful as we visit many of the key biodiversity hotspots in The Gambia. “Casual” recording is very useful in giving us a better idea of the distribution of many species, e.g., we recently doubled the number of sites in The Gambia known to have a Western green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis hallowelli) when we saw 2 at the waterhole we created in Pirang-Bonto Forest.

One of these mambas was the first to have been caught on our camera trap! Reptiles are not often captured on the cameras as they are cold-blooded so the temperature sensors on the camera traps do not trigger. Luckily for us, there were birds in the foreground of the image which triggered the camera. Our camera traps also caught several monitor lizards drinking due to bird activity. In the future, we will trial camera traps designed for cold-blooded species and set up arboreal cameras in an attempt to more efficiently survey reptiles!

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A green mamba spotted at the watering hole we built in Pirang-Bonto forest.

How Can You Help

You can support our conservation work in various ways; by either getting onboard and joining one of our research expeditions (open-group) or organising your own academic fieldcourse (for academic professionals).

 

We are currently organising a herps focused expedition for 2025, however in the mean time, you can join any other upcoming expedition, whereby herps projects are still funded and supported through these trips.

if you're interested in being involved with a herps research expedition, subscribe below and be the first to know!

Alternatively, you can donate to us to support our projects and in turn, support the local communities in the Smiling Coast.

Be the first to know about our research expeditions!

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