Friday, May 6, 2011

Horned Viper Habitat in Africa Kenya

The Horned viper meets the criteria for listing in Appendix II. This small viper is one of the most spectacular and unusual of Kenya’s endemic species. According to the IUCN/TRAFFIC analysis it “has a restricted range, appears to be rare and has a low reproductive potential.” It is found in high altitude grassland and scrub along the central rift valley. Its status is unknown, but one expert found it had disappeared from an area in which it was numerous 30 years ago. Its main habitat is within prime farming land so it is at risk from habitat loss. According to the IUCN/TRAFFIC analysis “It is conceivable that collection for export may not be sustainable, or may be reducing populations to a potentially threatened level.”

Horned Viper

An illegal trade exists but data is sparse and difficult to obtain. An investigation into trade conducted in 2001 and 2002 found the Kenya horned viper was the most frequently exported snake. Fraudulent permits seized in Kenya indicated 37 individuals were exported to Canada, Netherlands and the USA between November and May. US import statistics for November May 2000 record 17 unspecified Bitis species imported from Kenya in five shipments; none of these were imported during the period covered by the seized documentation. Thus many imports were unrecorded in the US import data, indicating that trade is higher than reported. A survey by German Customs Authorities and the German Scientific Authority found 19 horned vipers were illegally imported into Germany between May and October. The survey did not cover all German airports and reflected only part of the trade in one year. The IUCN/TRAFFIC analysis confirms that the species is “in demand by foreign collectors and has been recorded in international trade.”

Horned Viper

Control of this trade from Kenya is very difficult. Legislation is not adequate since the species is not listed on the Schedule of the Wildlife Act of Kenya. Enforcement is under-resourced and reptiles are not a high priority. Appendix II listing will assist Kenya with controlling the markets, particularly in the EU and USA. Kenya believes an Appendix III listing will not be sufficient to control the markets and protect the species.

Horned Viper


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