Herpetofauna of Europe : karpathos - greece (december 2005)
Herpetofauna of Europe European Amphibians & Reptiles

Herpetological trip to Karpathos (Greece)
23th of December 2005 - 1st of January 2006

All pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck.

Dedicated to a single specific species, this winter trip did not allow to observe all species of the island's herpetofauna. Seven of the eleven known species of Karpathos were found. We found many individuals of the target species Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni) and were also lucky to find a spot for the rare and endangered Karpathos Water Frog (Pelophylax cerigensis). Besides these species, we found four lizard species and just a single (dead) snake. The island is not very large so by car we could explore most of it during this one week. Joining me on this trip were Jan, Peter and Anniek.
I wish to thank a few people for their hints concerning this trip: Thomas Mutz, Paolo Mazzei, Jaap van Wingerde and Matt Wilson.

overview of prospected sites

Friday 23/12-Sunday 25/12 - stuck in Athens

We left on Friday but our Athens-Karpathos flight wasn't until Sunday morning, so we walked through the cold and wet city and found some active Red-eared Terrapins (Trachemys scripta elegans) in the National Gardens. On Sunday we were off to Karpathos, where the weather was rather nice (around 15 °C during the day but often chilly winds). At the airport, we soon found the most common reptile of the island, Kotschy's Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi). Underneath a rusty piece of metal I found an Ocelllated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus). We moved to our stay at Zephyros Village in the main town Karpathos (formerly Pigadia) and found both species there as well. Tired by our early flight we took things a little slow and prepared for a full day of salamander hunting on Monday.

Kotschy's Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi)

Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus)

Monday 26/12 - Vouvia peninsula and a first drive north

Just outside Pigadia we started exploring the north facing slope but only found Kotschy's Gecko. We drove north along the eastern coast of the island and while Jan and Peter were shooting the scenery, I had the honour of finding our first Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni). Three more were found, no males yet. It got dark while we were taking pictures and after that we were content and went back to Pigadia to eat. With the help of the friendly people at the Nisiotiko restaurant we were informed on the whereabouts of the frog, shaping our plans for the next day.

scenery near Mertonas

Jan and Peter

female of Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni)

female of Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni)

Tuesday 27/12 - further north and frog find

Taking local advice, we drove further north on the search for frogs etc. South of Spoa we found a second salamander spot including our first male and also a juvenile. After that, we left the paved road and drove towards the village Olympos. After a drive through the beautiful landscape, we arrived at the small brook with several greyish Karpathos Water Frogs (Pelophylax cerigensis).

male of Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni)

male of Karpathos Water Frog (Pelophylax cerigensis)

tadpole of Karpathos Water Frog (Pelophylax cerigensis)

habitat of Karpathos Water Frog (Pelophylax cerigensis)

Wednesday 28/12 – Pigadia => Arkasa => Spoa => Pigadia

First stop west of Menetes with cold wind and only Kotschy's Gecko. Not very much to find during this drive. We walked into Mertonas and found another eight salamanders and a single Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii fabichi).

portrait of male Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni)

male of Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni)

Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii fabichi)

Thursday 29/12 – further north than before...

We had again a beautiful drive to the north and we visited the lovely village Olympos and found twelve salamanders here. Slightly aided by local kids, we saw our only snake of the trip: a dead Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius). We went even further north, finding another three salamanders just past Avlona. We had a drink at Diafani where we found Kotschy's Gecko (again ...) and after that, we made our bumpy way back south.


Friday 30/12 – Axamandia

We tried to find a second frog site but were unsuccessful. We did find, however, five further salamanders with remarkably spotless backs. Also a lot of Kotschy's Gecko plus a Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) too.

portrait of female Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni) from Axamandia

Peter, Anniek and Jan at Axamandia

Turkisch Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Saturday 31/12 – central villages from east to west

We found Turkish and Kotschy's Gecko at Volada and Kotschy's at Finiki. Peter and I enjoyed the new year party at our favourite restaurant as a nice end to our trip.

Sunday 1/1 – back home

Two planes took us back home for new year's day.

List of the observed species

1. Helversen's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni) - about 35-40 animals at six sites
2. Karpathos Water Frog (Pelophylax cerigensis)
*. Red-eared Terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans) - Athens National Gardens
3. Kotschy's Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi)
4. Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
5. Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii fabichi)
6. Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus)
7. Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius)

What we missed …

As this was a winter trip, we missed some reptile species of Karpathos: Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax), Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis), Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) and Snake-eyed Lacertid (Ophisops elegans).

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