The Kenya Reptile Atlas – A free science resource for all
Stephen Spawls, Patrick Malonza, Beryl Bwong, Vincent Muchai
and Victor Wasonga
Information on Africa’s reptiles is often hard to come by, to be found in dense scientific papers and books. But a good book on Kenya’s reptiles costs several thousand shillings. Such books are beyond the reach of most ordinary Kenyans, especially students. So our new project, the Kenya reptile atlas, is an attempt at genuine citizen science, a free resource for anyone who has access to a computer and the internet. It is aimed at the ordinary citizens of Kenya, although obviously it’s available to all. To utilise it, you don’t have to own a computer, so long as you can find one to use, or a Smartphone. For anyone who can get onto the internet and download material, the Kenya Retile atlas represents a free source of information, constantly being added to and updated, on an important component of Kenya’s fauna. You can find it at www.kenyareptileatlas.com , and go to downloads. At present, only 50 or so species are available, but as time goes by, we’ll eventually have all of Kenya’s reptiles available. And they are free for all.
What will you get? Each account has a map, photographs and a description. The accounts are grouped. We have started with the medically important snakes, the front fanged dangerous ones. These are the elapids (cobras, mambas, garter snakes and relatives) and the vipers (big viper, carpet vipers, night adders and bush vipers). This section will be useful to many, especially doctors and other medical professionals, who want to find out what dangerous snakes occur in their area, and thus what snake might have possibly bitten the patient they are viewing. But anyone who wants to know what sort of dangerous snakes might be around where they live, or where they intend to visit, will also find it useful. We have also put up the chameleons, because not only are they enchanting animals, but African chameleon taxonomy (the science of classification) is changing fast, with new species being described, (particularly from remote areas), new records being made and the biological molecules (in particular DNA) are clarifying the relationships between the various forms. So you can get up-to-date material, and find out how many species occur in Kenya, how they live and where they are found.
What has been heartening, in our efforts, has been the support we have received from various bodies. The Rufford Foundation have funded the costs of field trips and work at the National Museums of Kenya, and many scientists and herpetological professionals have given their time to look at accounts, and have generously allowed us the use of their precious photographs. As time passes, we hope to get all of Kenya’s reptile species onto the website, and then run updates, informing people of the changes in taxonomy, distribution etc. We’re also always pleased to receive contributions from the public, be they anecdotes or photographs…and if you are in Kenya, the museum is always delighted to receive specimens. Contact us at Kenyareptileatlas@gmail.com . And please spread the word about the existence of the atlas. Knowledge is power.