Aesculapian Snake

Zamenis longissimus

It is a snake with probably the oldest known European tradition. It was consecrated to the Greko-Roman god of medicine Asklépios (Aesculapius in Latin) and is depicted on antient things over 2 500 years old. Until today, the Aesculapian Snake is part of the physicians´ emblem (a snake wound round a chalice), and its name is used in modern times for example in the names of bars, spas or a credit accounts of doctors.

The Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus) is a European non-venomous species of snake occuring as far as in Near East, but generally being considered a European snake.

In the Czech Republic, the Aesculapian Snake has always been a rare species. An apparent paradox is the fact that the first population recorded in our country has been an isolated one in Poohří (Eger River Basin): only 100 years later populations extending their continuous range by a promontory into two sites in Moravia were discoveredwere discovered. The isolated distribution area in Poohří has dramatically declined during the last 30 years.

Photo: R. Musilová.Economic changes after 1948 caused the landscape mosaic to change. These changes had the biggest impact on the snake´s population in Poohří. The landscape mosaic continues to change after 1989. In open areas is the landuse, abandoned lands - on the contrary - are vegetated by woody plants. Therefore, in most of the open countryside two extreme biotopes are appearing, none of them being suitable for the Aesculapian Snake; the species survives only in villages and in colonies of holiday bungalows. It is forced to use roads as migratory corridors, which is another threat for the animal. The main problem in Podyjí (Thaya River Basin) is the invasion of woody plants into an open countryside.

The main goal of the Action Plan is the conservation of viable populations of the Aesculapian Snake in all three known, mutually isolated areas of its occurrence in the Czech Republic.

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