Herping with the Irulas

Last month we had pleasure to host a very special guests. Legendary snake catchers from Irula tribe (India). Masi and Vadivel are catching snakes for venom extraction, they agreed to visit Thailand and help us with snake surveys. Along with them came Gowri Shankar with his intern Prianka, a well known herpetologist from Bangalore and Ajay Kartik, head curator from Madras Crocodile Bank.

DSCF6605From left: Gowri Shankar, Vadivel, Masi, Bartosz Nadolski, Karolina Ciesielska, Prianka Swamy, Anji D’souza, Ajay Kartik.

We spent almost 280 man hours in the field. We captured 20 snakes of 11 species.

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DSCF6721Two of four neonates of Pipe Snake Cylindrophus ruffus foundes in ome hole.

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Rice Paddy Snake Enhydris plumbea in its burrow.

DSCF6642Ornate Flying Snake Chrysopelea ornata feeding on Toke Gecko Gecko gecko.

It was relay interesting to see how these people work in the field. They look for tracks left by snakes. By looking at animal burrow they can say if it was recently used by snakes.

DSCF6596Part of the burrow with well visible snake track. Once snake move in the hole he leaves smooth surface behind.

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Between surveys we visited local Korean Barbecue. It is one of my very favorite ways to go out for social feeding.

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Las part of our trip was visit in Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute. We met Dr Lawan that took us for a walk around facilities. We are keeping fingers cross for future collaborations.

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King Cobra room.

After visiting backstage we took a tour around facilities for general audience. First we saw Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia venom extraction.

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After that we visited exhibitions with snakes of Thailand. Many of the species presented there can be found around Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve.

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The fattest Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia I have ever seen.

DSCF6790Prianka with King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah.

Finally after twelve days their trip come to the end. We are planing to organize two more visits in different part of year to find more snakes! Stay tuned.

Nasi012 capture

In mid March Sakaerat Snake Team was hosting BBC crew. Guys were working on show “Wild Thailand”. They visited us to document life of our radio tracked snakes. We were extremely lucky to find Spitting Cobra with Tyler on an active survey. Snake was crossing dirt road in the village under cover of darkness. BBC crew recorded some awsome shots of this snake! We are looking forward to see this guy in TV. Mean time we are visiting Nasi012 daily as he been implanted with radio and is part of our project. Snake is male, 1.3 m long and weight 544 g.

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Nasi014 capture

On 4th of July we had rescue call. People called us saying that the have King Cobra at their house. At the site it turned out that snake is actually Indochinese Spitting Cobra. Nasi014 is 1.3 m and 432 g  male. After implantation with radio transmitter this snake is part of our project. Interesting is that this snake share at least part of its home range with Opha019 (2.7 m King Cobra) radio tracked by Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team.

First picture made by Cameron Hodges show snake as found in the house.

We wish this snake good luck. There is at least on hungry King Cobra around…

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Naka014 capture

On 29th May 2016 Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia Nakao14 was noticed by Tyler who went jogging to the forest. Snake was crossing main road. Tyler, as he did not carry any handling tools, followed snake to very old termite mound. Once snake sheltered he blocked entrance with the stone and run like Forest Gump for back up. We dig the snake out and now Naka014 is part of  our radio telemetry project. This snake is only female of Monocled Cobra that we currently radio track and second in history of our project. She is 1.56 m long and 870 g body weight.  Unfortunately snake wasn’t a good model and she book it straight after release.

Naka016 capture

Our most recent N. kaouthia was noticed in the Dry Evergreen Forest forest by the bird team on 24th June 2016. Snake was crossing main road in the forest. Once encounter snake move off the road and hide in tree roots. On our arrival, after snake was left alone for about 15 minutes, we noticed that snake was sitting stil just next to the road. One of the easiest capture I remember. Naka016 is 1.65 m male. He weight just over a kilogram.

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He has very distinguish hood mark, where mark is incomplete on top.

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We are happy to add this snake to our study, especially that this snake will potentially share his home range with Naka015 and Naka014.

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Snake handling workshop for Rescue Teams

On 10th of July we had pleasure to be part of very special event. With Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team and Sakaerat Environmental Research Station we hosted over 90 people from Rescue Teams. These people help rural communities in first aid, medical services, snake rescues and others.

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Workshops started with presentation about snake ecology and their importance in ecosystems.

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What makes me really happy is thet they treated it seriously… Quite few of them was even taking notes!!

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In between lectures we invited guests to our field laboratory, where we presented them several snake species  including Siamese Cat Snake Boiga siamensis and Wolf Snake Lycodon laoensis. 

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After exciting time with snakes we had nice meal. On the right side of the picture below there is Mr. Mee. He is one of main characters responsible for such a high interest in our snake handling training.  Currently he is working on bringing here more teams from across the Thailand. Good guy!

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After lectures there was time for some practice. Here I am teaching how to set up bagging system properly.

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Some of the students took workshop less seriously than others … 🙂

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After sorting out baggers was time for snake handling presentations. We started with non venomous snakes like: 2m Oriental Rat Snake Ptyas mucosa and 12kg and 3 m Burmese Python Python bivittatus. Interesting fact about python is that this snake was capture night before the workshop and actually it is individual that we rescue from net almost two years before. On picture below me and Manuel are assisting volunteers with  handling big girl.

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After non venomous snakes came time for “hot” stuff. First Curt and Mee shown how to work with Green Pit Vipers.

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Last attraction of “snake show” was presentation on how to work with Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia. In first place we presented new technique that me and Curt learned on our trip to India. DSC04666DSC04664

Idea is to use snake natural instinct to shelter in stress situations. We used PVC pipe with bag attached to one end. Rocks around pipe help to stabilize it and imitate a natural shelter. Next step was to present snake to the set up.

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It is really good technique that works almost every time. Now we are looking forward to individual teams visiting us for an intensive snake handling training. Whole day was very demanding and exciting. Thank you all for your input! We made to nationwide news!

NAJA project update

Sorry for delays between posts. Things have been a bit manic on Naja team lately and we are now looking to get organised and stick to weekly updates (if our snakes cooperate). Just to give everyone a better idea of where we are at, here’s a quick summary of the last few months, what us, and our snakes have been up to:

NASI003 and NASI009

It is with heavy hearts that we can confirm that two of our radio tracked Naja siamensis individuals have been killed. NASI003 appears to have been eaten in the village, as we found the transmitter looking suspiciously clean in the bushes next to a house.  NASI009 was unfortunately pancaked onto the highway. What’s left of him, and the transmitter have been laid to rest in Bart’s fridge. What’s worse, it seems that both our snakes died on Christmas day! So all in all we are now down to just 3 snakes, a pretty devastating blow to the project (and our sample size!).

NAKA012 has been up to his old tricks, dragging Bart, Sami and Curtis through forests, thorns and more spider webs than you can count. However he has reduced his movements within the last few months (no doubt warming up for rainy season).

NAKA003 has remained in close proximity to the station making daily checks pretty easy.

NASI011, our most recently captured snake, has spent most of the last 3 months in a single hole. She’s just started venturing off into the villages so hopefully she’ll start to give us some interesting data soon (while staying out of trouble).

Curtis left!

So in early February after 6 months of hard work, Curtis Radcliffe, the Naja project’s 1st volunteer departed for home. Curtis was an excellent tracker and has been absolutely invaluable for the running of this project. We wish him all the best, and hope to convince him to come back out soon!

New volunteer!

So on a more uplifting note, the Naja project has recently been joined by our newest volunteer: Lydia Snow (and now her watch begins). You can find a bit out about Lydia Snow and what she’s been getting up to here.

So all in all a pretty busy few months. We are just now leaving cold season (below 20 degrees in the day, how did we even cope) and entering hot season (plus 40 in the day, motorbike seats have become a serious burn hazard!). This likely means more activity from our cobras, and hopefully, finding more snakes for the project.

We will keep you updated on our progress, snakes and any developments we have on the project. Stay tuned!

 

Nasi011

In beginning of last December Naja Team was chilling in the evening, enjoying well earned few beers. Everything was going smooth. Believe It or not we did not even talked about snakes for most of the time. In middle of our time off  we received snake call. This time it was not crazy, rush call. Snake was already captured and baged by the villagers. First time in good while we went without pushing the tempo to pick up cobra from someone’s household. When we arrived to the site, villagers were relaxing like nothing happened, enjoying their beers and rice wine. They gave us  bag with cobra inside. They told as that snake was spotted moving out of the toilet… seams that cobras like toilets. Any way, snake was not harmed while capture and that made us really happy.

What make us really happy is that Nasi011 is within home range of Nasi009 male. We were looking forward so much for breeding season… Why past tense? You will learn very soon…

Ladies and gents this is Indochinese Spitting Cobra Naja siamensis Nasi011, 1.4 m, 750 g, female.

 

Nasi009 Capture and Release

NASI009 Release

Indochinese Spitting Cobra Naja siamensis by Ben Marshall

It was a pretty standard Monday with everyone on the snake team going about their business, but that was to change with a single phone call and with it the 28th of September would see the introduction of a new snake to the Naja project. The message came through that a snake, possibly a cobra, was in a house in one of the local villages. Colin, Curt, Matt and Wyatt leapt in to action, jumping into the truck and racing off to find the house in question. On their arrival the snake was cornered with the gentleman of the house poking the now seriously annoyed snake with a large stick. Colin together with the local Rescue team made their way past the guy and despite the confines of the house, using all their skill and knowhow gained control of the snake. Within moments the snake was bagged and boxed ready for transportation back to the station. The snake was a Naja siamensis or Indochinese Spitting Cobra, perfect for the project.

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The next day it was hoped that the new snake might have calmed down but that wasn’t to be and a few of us were given an up close and personal demonstration of their renowned spitting ability getting caught with a carefully aimed dose of venom, thankfully out protective clothing did its job. A quick afternoon procedure and Nasi009 was officially on the team. A few hours of rest and recuperation, and by the early evening Nasi009 was ready for release. A small team of us set out on bikes to a plantation by the village where the snake had been captured, as the Sakaerat snake team does not agree with the translocation of snakes to entirely new areas. The spot was chosen and cameras were at the ready but yet again Nasi009 was in no mood to play ball. The first chance he had the snake was out of the box and heading for the dense vegetation, barely giving anyone a chance to press a button and take a photo. Thankfully however Ben was in no mood to miss his opportunity, as you can see at the top, with the reflexes of a quick draw gunslinger he was able to focus and shoot his prey as it sped off into the bush. So that was that, the project had its second Naja siamensis and a third snake to track.

Curtis.

Photo credit Ben Marshall

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