After a short excursion to a local forest area near Wageningen I decided to spend my afternoon at a local heathland. According to Natuurmonumenten (forestry service) it should be possible to find 6 out of 7 of the Dutch reptile species in that area.
The temperatures were ok with about 8 or 9 degrees celsius. Unfortunately the wind was really strong and cold so I didn’t expect any reptiles. But luck was on my side and could observe my first reptile of the year. Namely an adult male slow worm (Anguis fragilis), unfortunately the day wasn’t such a good one for this particular animal as I found him dead besides the road. Small injuries indicated possible predation by birds.
I decided to call RAVON (Reptile. Amphibian and Fish Conservation the Netherlands), an organization that monitors and studies the Dutch herpetofauna and fish species. They are currently working on a DNA barcoding project. The goal of this project is to obtain barcodes (really short DNA fragments) for each species so that they can still identify species that are morphologically similar or if specimens are unrecognizable due to damage. For that reason they are collecting dead reptiles and amphibians and are asking for the help of everybody that finds one. The procedure is really simple, as all reptiles are protected by legislation you need a special exemption in order to transport dead native reptiles. I just called the main office and they decided they could use another slow worm so I received my exemption by text message and the animal is now in my freezer until I hand it over to RAVON. Unfortunately this was the only reptile I found today but hopefully the next time also some adders (Vipera berus) or Sand lizards (Lacerta agilis)
With just four species of lizards in the Netherlands, I can already tick off the first one!