How do you find all those species?

By experience and preparation. Preparation is: reading about the species and learn their names. There are many books and websites to help you. Experience is: You have to recognise the right spots in the landscape where to look. And even then you still have to know exactly how to scan the soil and the vegetation for herps. Learning this takes many field-hours. The quickest way to learn this is from other people.

Which species take most time to find?

Snakes are always the hardest! We had a hard time finding Platyceps collaris in SE-Bulgaria, also Vipera eriwanensis in Armenia was quite difficult, while for Vipera renardi and V. moldavica in Romania we needed a second visit to the location before they could be found.

How do you know if a snake is venomous?

Usually, we recognize any snake immediately. In Europe, the only venomous snakes that might be a threat to humans are vipers, and they can all quite easily be recognized by their body shape. The head is clearly distinct from the body and most adders have a contrasting dorsal pattern. Another important detail – if you get to see it – is the vertical, catlike pupil. Furthermore, vipers are not very quick.

Some species cannot be photographed without handling them. How do you deal with that?

During our trips or single excursions we always keep the following 5 ethical rules in mind:
1 Never hu
rt an animal and keep the stress level as low as possible. We are especially aware to not disturb mating animals or animals with prey. For example, captured snakes easily spit out their precious haunted prey.
2 We do not handle any animal unless it’s the only way to identify it or show a special new species to others.  Handling remains limited strictly for those species wich cannot be photographed otherwise. What’s better than a curious lizard sunbathing in front of your lens?

3 When searching, we always put stones, wood or other possible hiding items back in their original place. We try to not destroy vegetation and we never leave any litter in nature.
4 During warm nights driving around in a car is a good way to find animals on the road. We always put the animal on the other side of the road, unless we can’t stop due to heavy traffic.
5 Sheila and Tiffany (see picture) always keep an eye upon us when we're in the field, just to make sure we do not violate the code.

Why don’t you provide location details?

In our trip reports we intentionally conceal location details. We don’t want animals, habitats or populations to suffer from too much curiosity from visitors. Besides: it’s really a drag to arrive on a potential klooispot and find all the stones turned upside down, because other people have been searching herps under them without putting them back into their original positions.

Why is that a problem?

In some cases it can take months, if not years before the space between a stone and its substrate becomes a suitable shelter for reptiles or amphibians. You can easily destroy this in a few seconds. You also deprive other animals like centipedes, millipedes, scorpions and ants from their nests under the stones.

Can I join a Klooiplek-trip?

Bart organizes photo-trips that have quite some similarities with the way we work at Klooiplek. If you’re interested you can check out his site: www.natuurcommunicatie.nl