Herpetofauna on the island of Milos
Milos-Viper (Macrovipera schweizeri)
Sooner or later, every visitor to Milos will stumble across the name of the “Vipera lebetina,” whether this be as the name of a club in Adamantas established decades ago or as a little mascot for football matches. The namesake is the Milos viper, a venomous snake, that occurs in particular on Milos and some of its neighbouring islands. In very rare cases, holidaymakers get to see this snake. It makes the stories that many a local is glad to tell about the “Ochiá,” as it is known here, all the more exciting to hear.
Myths, monsters, mutations
If you believe the tales, the body size and abilities of the Milos viper appear to be almost unlimited. Snakes 2 metres long and as thick as your forearm are said to have been sighted. They rear up half a metre, hissing, like a cobra. And they can of course jump several metres. A particular story would make a great film: German scientists are alleged to have thrown Milos vipers from a helicopter over Chalakas, the western part of Milos, to reintroduce them. Then a German doctor came regularly (and of course secretly and at night) to collect the snakes’ venom and to manufacture drugs from it!
Interview with Mario Schweiger
Since all of these claims aroused a certain incredulity in me, I turned to an acknowledged expert. Mario Schweiger from Obertrum, Austria, the operator of the www.vipersgarden.at website and widely known in specialist circles, supported me with his dedicated assistance in my efforts to produce as accurate a picture of these snakes as possible.
Other snakes, lizards, tortoises and turtles etc.
Even if the Milos viper receives special attention – its other reptilian colleagues should not be neglected. For example, there are other endemic species on the island such as the Milos wall lizard. Mario Schweiger explains all about the reptiles and amphibians of Milos.