This blog was written by Chris Bednarski, a member of the Houston Zoo’s Herpetology Department. Chris received a Staff Conservation Fund grant from his coworkers at the Houston Zoo to carry out a wildlife-saving project for reptiles and amphibians in the Western Ghats region of India. We will be posting a series of blogs as Chris documents his work overseas.
Chris’s goal is to survey within a section of land purchased by the Tillari Biodiversity Research Trust and document what species are present, as well as discover new species and note their home ranges. These findings will help to strengthen the need to protect this land, and by protecting this land, we save species in the wild!
Tonight was a good night for snakes! I don’t get to say that often enough… About 30 feet from where we parked our car I began setting my camera gear up and set up my weather reading device. I shine my flash light to a spot about 12-20 inches from my bag and I see a snake! Not just any snake but one of the cutest and most dangerous species in our area, the saw scaled viper!!!!! All I had to say was the word “saw” and all of my field partners started running to my location. This is thought to be a very common species in the northern Western Ghats, but I have only seen 6 in my time working here. This adorable little bundle of venom and sunshine was about a foot long and sleeping nicely on a leaf until it noticed 5 weirdos standing over him. Once he saw us see him he decided to slither off further into the forest and we were just happy to have caught a quick glance of him. After that we were all pumped up and ready for a good night of snakes and frogs. We found a few more wolf snakes of two different species, a large Indian rat snake, several checkered keelback snakes and a bunch of vine snakes. Finding one or two snakes a night is usually a decent night, but we found a total of 19 tonight! The vine snake is one of my favorite snakes to see in India. A snake no thicker than a pencil can be 3 feet long! These snakes specialize in eating lizards and frogs mostly. You can find them active in the day and night, crossing roads or 50 feet up in a tree. Beside all the awesome snakes, we found a few frog species and a really cool lynx spider. Getting asleep tonight will be difficult – we are all pumped up on such a good snake night!