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Advice please

Printed From: Reptiles and Amphibians of the UK
Category: Conservation
Forum Name: Habitat Loss
Forum Description: Use this forum to highlight harmful development projects and other issues involving habitat destruction
URL: http://www.herpetofauna.co.uk/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=2000
Printed Date: 24 Oct 2020 at 1:20am
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.06 - http://www.webwizforums.com


Topic: Advice please
Posted By: Robert V
Subject: Advice please
Date Posted: 27 Mar 2007 at 2:55pm

Hi all,

i wonder if you would all consider this seriously and let me have your suggestions as to wording.

I'm considering writing an open letter to the local paper critisising the work of the conservators of Epping Forest, but, I don;t want to go overboard or be blatantly rude, but, something has to be said.

This year, is the first time in 19 years (yes 19 years of drought and flood) that I have not made one single sighting of a Grass Snake on any of the plains in EF.

Now i'm not going to speculate as to the reasons but one thing I do know, whatever cover there had been on the plains for emerging adults or newly hatched youngsters, have been decimated by the "long horn experiments" through out the forest.

I wrote to the Conservation Officer in 2004 warning of the situation and the decline in GS numbers even then, but he just wrote back the same old spiel about needing to promote Heather growth and reduce Birch and Purple Moor Grass.

In my eyes (and I'm trying hard not to be unduly critical given the aims) the whole thing has been a disaster. Yes, there are some minor crops of Heather (about 12mm tall) in odd aptches, but generally, the trampled mess is cropped, sh*t all over and fit for no reptile. Obviously, some still survive in Glades and nooks and crannies, but, I cannot see any way back for GS when every year they rope off several areas and smash it all to bits. I'm sorry to go on, but, it rankles that an area that was almost legendary since the days of Malenoir can be treated with such ignorance.

The really ironic thing is that two years ago, two of the so called wardens wanted to arrest me for bagging, weighing, measuring and photographing newly emerged Adders.

Wow, I'm fuming.....Help.



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RobV



Replies:
Posted By: Vicar
Date Posted: 28 Mar 2007 at 4:54pm
Robert,

I do understand your frustration.

I would suggest that the first thing to do would be to have a darn good think as to what other reasons might have caused the proven (you have records!) decline. Then you can set about 'testing' each theory to see if it stands up.

It seems to me that they are unlikely to just accept blame, and are more likely to point to some other factor. This is where a well thought out plan of action will expose any knee-jerk diversionary tactics, if any are employed.

I find it hard to comment as I don't know the site nor the situation. Either way, it sounds as though the animals have already suffered.

So sorry mate

Steve


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Steve Langham - Chairman     mailto:steve@surrey-arg.org.uk">
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group


Posted By: administrator
Date Posted: 28 Mar 2007 at 5:45pm

If I could help I would Rob. My experience with any challenge to management is that very often it doesn't get beyond a load of generic responses - the classic being that reptiles benefit from 'open' habitat - totally missing the point that reptiles require three dimensional habitats with a mixture of cover and more open basking areas. Seems we all have the same experience, frustrating isn't the word for it when your on the ground and can see the damage done.



Posted By: Peter Vaughan
Date Posted: 28 Mar 2007 at 6:31pm

A bit worrying all this.  Increasingly it seems that grazing - in particular grazing by cattle - is seen as THE answer to heathland biodiversity management.   On one local reserve ponies are grazed - they haven't eliminated the reptiles and appear to be helping to re-generate the heather.   But there is a desire to replace them with cattle.  I am not entirely sure why - I think its because certain breeds of cattle will munch their way through a wider variety of invasive plant species.  That may further improve the variety etc of the flora but...

Peter



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Peter Vaughan


Posted By: Robert V
Date Posted: 29 Mar 2007 at 1:42pm

 

Mmmm, thanks all for your sentiments etc.

In a way, I think Steve's right, I should try to eliminate every other possibility but, as I'd already alerted the powers-that-be in '04 of the decline of one area the year after grazing started there, and others had warned as early as 1998 of the detrimental effects in other grazed areas, they would find it hard to deny the link between the two events.

BUT. Here is an part of what they told me and I quote....."None of the reptile species in the forest are faced with extinction in the forest, or in Essex, although their numbers have reduced markedly because of loss of suitable open habitats over the last century, and they should all benefit in the long term by an expansion of the more open heathy habitats and more edge habitat...."

It goes on to say the benefits to Heath Wood Rush, Creeping Willow and Black Sedge! Obviously much more important than any reptile huh?

Anyway, if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere, and though a few might chuckle when I mention trying to increase the protection for Grass Snakes as well as Adders, mark my words, if we don't, in twenty years, we'll be lucky to photograph either.

Of course, I could try and reverse the thinking altogether and any GS I find, I could transfer to a "safe site" in Kent maybe or even down in Somerset?! Now theres a thought....

R  



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RobV


Posted By: Vicar
Date Posted: 29 Mar 2007 at 2:40pm
Just thought it worth a mention...

There are some of us on this forum, for whom herpetology is an amateur hobby, which we do for the joy of observing the animals, and our mortgage payments are in no way dependent upon national or regional conservation organisations.

What I'm saying is, if somebody has good evidence, but is shy of causing waves because their livelihood depends upon keeping certain organisations on side, there are some of us who do not need to tread so lightly.

Certainly feel free to PM me about any such issues in Surrey.


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Steve Langham - Chairman     mailto:steve@surrey-arg.org.uk">
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group


Posted By: Robert V
Date Posted: 31 Mar 2007 at 4:45am

 

Wow,

I'm glad (in a way) that I'm not the only one with 'issues'.

Again, I think Steve is right; some of us are 'just' herp amateur enthusiasts and only have an ineterest in one or two sites, but, an intimate knowledge of such sites surely can be useful for understanding herp needs nationally?

It seems to me that there are major differences of opinion as to what "reptile/herp/snake needs" are as is evidenced by above in Dave and Tony's debate and if such differences exist in such things as what constitutes a perfect reptile environment, then how can land owners or organisations like the conservators of EF know exactly what to do and what NOT to do???

For what its worth (and I realise few are listening) I think that Nn perfect habitat is not the same as Vb perfect habitat and to a certain extent, thats where EF suffers through total lack of understanding of each as they're just treated as snakes in the grass and expected to survive upheaval.

So, like Tony down at Hartland, I'm on a hiding to nothing and no wonder you went over to SA Tony, where I imagine wild, still looks a bit like wild.

I'm going over there again in a about an hour...... Glutton for punishment i suppose. The trouble is that....... I can never stop being interested!



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RobV


Posted By: Vicar
Date Posted: 03 Apr 2007 at 4:48am
Eelmoor marsh appears well managed for reptiles, with good densities of Nn, Af and Vb, although fewer Zv than expected.

To give an idea of the grazing intensity at the site, I think there are about six Przewalski horses, and a similar number of cattle over 79 hectares.

By all accounts, the flora of the site has benefited greatly.

I've heard that the number of cattle may double soon.


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Steve Langham - Chairman     mailto:steve@surrey-arg.org.uk">
Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 03 Apr 2007 at 5:52am

Basically your stuffed when it comes to reptiles in the Forest Rob, though ask for the crested newt records from the conservators......

Overgrazing an area which is important for this species is a criminal offence hence the police should be involved.....wait a minute

The Epping Forest SSSI citation states that there are excellent populations of all the amphibian & reptile species found in Essex - if features of a SSSI are being damaged by works (grazing) which are being used to help restore other features of the SSSI then they have to review this and mitigate for this damage - reptile numbers going down due to reduction of vegetation structure

I would suggest that the open letter may back fire....... though I cannot stop you from doing that

The one thing I would like to have is your records over your time studying the reptiles at Epping Forest - we need to collate all the available data together I have some data, Roy has some and if we put all this together I would be willing to write a report for the conservators and Natural England......

 

Let me know

 

Jon



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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: herpetologic2
Date Posted: 03 Apr 2007 at 5:54am

PS I do feel that the management of the Forest is not benefiting the reptiles and so the numbers appear to be declining due to the removal of their habitat - hence the need to rectify this as the reptiles are protected under the SSSI citation!

PPS also mammals, invertebrates will also be reduced due to the complete removal of molinia tussocks etc

PPPS what we want them to do is to provide suitable compensatory habitats - brash piles, windrows, areas of molinia/bramble/bracken so that the animals survive long enough to colonise the developing heathland in 30 to 40 years

PPPPS - How far do your grass snakes range Rob?

 



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Report your sightings to the Record Pool http://recordpool.org.uk" rel="nofollow - http://arguk.org/recording


Posted By: Robert V
Date Posted: 09 Apr 2007 at 4:30am

David /Jon/ Paul,

this sounds like a great publication! When will it be available? (I'll buy two and post a copy to one Mr.D at EF). Also, where can we pick up a copy of the other journals mentioned?

As for the forest Jon, now that the group has been splintered (see I've even used a word carefully and not put decimated!) it is now difficult to assess what the range is....... But one very unusual observation you might like to record somewhere is this; and I do not think it is coincidence but of course I cannot prove it.... The distance (in paces!) from most prolific hibernation site to Spring mating sites (for those that do not stay close to hibernation sites all year about 20% - maybe non breeding Females) is 540 paces (closest count bar trips through brambles). The distance from mating sites to summer feeding grounds is 540 paces (same rule applies)..... How weird is that? That is why it is SOOOOO frustrating to have these studies interupted by four hooves. So many ponds are not used but which contain fish newts etc. there is still so much to uncover.

Rob

 



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RobV


Posted By: Robert V
Date Posted: 09 Apr 2007 at 4:42am

 

Ps,

I vaguely remember one post on here, where I think Tony mentioned some goats that were used on Studland /Hartland (couldn't remember which) and that three escaped??? Or am I getting my subjects hopelessly mixed up?

Anyway, I was driving through said area yesterday and saw a dead goat (road kill!) laying on the verge...... So guys, its one down, two to go.

R



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RobV


Posted By: Robert V
Date Posted: 09 Apr 2007 at 2:18pm

 

David,

well this poor fellow was on the verge on the hill coming up from Studland just before making the right hand bend inland toward Corfe castle. If it helps he looked like a tan and white Billy.

R



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RobV



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