The Open University of Cyprus coordinates a new research project focused on the conservation of herpetofauna

The Open University of Cyprus (OUC) and its Terrestrial Ecosystems Management Lab is leading a new Erasmus+ project entitled “Improving biodiversity’s resilience to climate-and human-induced threats through nursing positive Human-Herpetofauna Interactions” (HerpTrust). The project’s consortium comprises of the OUC as the lead partner, the Friends of the Earth Malta NGO, and Ecostack Innovations Limited operating in Malta. Herpetofauna (reptile and amphibian) species are currently one of the most endangered groups worldwide, with their numbers on the decline due to both climate change and a series of human-related threats such as persecution, pollution, and habitat fragmentation, and targeted conservation actions are thus urgently needed to protect the most threatened herp species.

Most people are unaware of herpetofauna’s importance to the environment, while not being able to identify reptiles and most importantly venomous from non-venomous snakes leads to “ophidiophobia”, even for the harmless species, that in turn leads towards unnecessary persecution. Moreover, uncontrolled development with the continuously expanding cities and road networks, and the intensification of agriculture, is irreversibly degrading and fragmenting important habitats of herp species. Τhis project, identifying the above problems, aims to contribute to improving biodiversity’s resilience, by nursing and promoting positive Human-Herpetofauna Interactions (HHI) through herpetofauna-related adult education to citizens and VET. Professionals who live and work in nature (e.g. farmers, shepherds, hunters), and are in contact with herpetofauna species on a regular basis, are the real countryside managers and can actually make a difference, safeguarding herps and the rest of biodiversity.

The concrete objectives of the HerpTrust project are to:

  • Produce an e-learning course about Human-Herpetofauna Interactions (HHI)
  • Develop an interactive online tool that will allow countryside managers to be constantly updated on herpetofauna of their area and also contribute themselves through a citizen science platform
  • Produce a replicability e-package for education & training activities related to HHI
  • Interact with the target groups and increase output uptake by implementing 2 multiplier events, in Cyprus and Malta

The project will allow VET and adult education providers to build education and training activities related to HHI, reforming the stakeholders’ mindset, improving attitude and contributing towards an increment of biodiversity’s resilience to climate and human-induced threats.