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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Krait)
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 5:39 am 
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
This here, ladies and germs, is a rarely-seen four-foot Red-headed Krait (Bungarus flaviceps), and it is hands-down the second-brightest highlight of my nine-month herping career in Sarawak (only topped by that 16-foot python last Fall). Beauty speaks for itself, so I shall eschew my usual bubbly banter bollocks, and present just the cold, hard facts.

No, wait. That wouldn't be no fun :-)

So, the snake was sitting by the roadside, but still on the tarmac, when I cruised past it last Saturday night. I thought it was dead, and it sure kept up that impression whilst I walked over to it....until I touched it with my snake hook. Then it flipped the notorious Krait Switch to ELEVEN. (Explanation for elapidiots: in the face of danger, kraits will reduce their tactical library to one of two modes: ZERO and ELEVEN. Similar to a manic/depressive cycle, ZERO means 100% catatonic, while ELEVEN ("that's one louder", as Spinal Tap taught us) is the complete opposite. For reasons no one seems to have answered yet, it will unpredictably switch from ZERO to ELEVEN and start a frenzied dervish dance that's all manic swishing and lashing and whipping of both body ends in all available directions. (Confusingly, the snake doesn't really get anywhere that way - not in a forward direction, at least. The insane flailing usually keeps the animal pretty much where it started off. I think it's just an attempt to shock the opponent, but I'm hoping for more learned input here. )

After twenty solid minutes of this epileptic rage, the snake had worn me out. Imagine a bullwhip with two neurotoxic stingers at the business end, tied to a loose garden hose running on full water pressure, and you have an idea of the situation. Now the snake was heading for the roadside, now for the underside of my car (which would have required me to get a rental until the bastard had come out again, which could take weeks), and, of course, most of the time its spastic movements took it straight towards me. None of those movements seemed to have any calculated aim, or even malicious intent, but still...my dance partner was packing two nice fat satchels of alpha-bungarotoxin that both seemed to have my name on it.

Kraits are terrestrial, and notoriously bad hook-perchers, so picking up the snake up with the hook to cool it off just doesn't work - they just slide off the hook like a wet noodle and then tango another round. Mercifully, after an eternity or two the krait calmed down enough for me to finally place my hat on its head, which promptly sent it back to the peaceful land of Catatonia. I used the very welcome break to get my camera, change my T-shirt, take a pee, change the lens, call my son, and wash down a salami sandwich with a Coke (yes, the possum mode has its upsides).

Camera work was now possible, but I still had to endure another half hour of random, if much less frequent mode switches before the snake finally tired enough to allow me to get in prone position and snap a few macros. Down there, most of the time it cooperated, but once in a while, mostly when I had just finished focusing, it would nonchalantly flick its head away from the flash, or tuck it under its body (another typical krait trait that can drive you potty), forcing me to heave my considerable biomass off the ground, walk around the beast, plop down on my belly again, and set up the camera anew. The latter was mostly done with my right hand, for my left was operating the snake hook: while I've never seen the genus Bungarus bite in defense, I didn't want to become the first exception to the rule, especially not on a pitch-black mountain road in rural Sarawak, fifteen miles from the next house and fifty from the next intelligible English speaker....

What a trip that was. Hope you enjoy the pix. I went through hell for them :-) :-) :-)

PS: Dig those huge, pink nostrils! Initially, I actually thought they were flesh wounds!

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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 6:19 am 

Joined: July 1st, 2010, 7:07 pm
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Amazing!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 7:09 am 
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Awesome snake Hans. Can see why you call it "Satan's Rubber Toy". :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 7:34 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 12:37 pm
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Location: Ft. Smith, Arkansas
They just keep getting better and better, Hans!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 10:52 am 
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Wow, Hans, what a wonderful find! Sounds like an incredible experience. I am glad that it finally allowed you to take these photos. It really is a lovely species.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 1:58 pm 
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Nice one Hans! :beer: I would give anything to have been there filming you do your Baryshnikov impersonation... :lol: Is the Red-headed as toxic as fasciatus?


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 2:54 pm 
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Is this Baluensis ssp or the regular subspecies? I can't really tell.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 3:14 pm 
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What a beautiful snake! :shock:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 3:34 pm 
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Very cool Hans, a great find and I'm very impressed with your patience. As you know, there are plenty of deaths on record for Bungarus so they certainly do bite in defence from time to time (and I have seen flaviceps have a good chew on a snake bag so they can't be all that reluctant!).

John - according to LD50 testing in rodents flaviceps is considerably more toxic than fasciatus.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 3:53 pm 
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Location: Ohio, then Arizona, now South Australia
Ouch!!! Thanks TNW :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 4:53 pm 
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WOW! That is a good looking snake. Great find!

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 5:51 pm 

Joined: July 14th, 2011, 8:18 am
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first time I've seen one of those posted on here! well done, hans :thumb:
-Ian


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 6:02 pm 
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Location: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
Nice find, Hans! It looks to be a large specimen. There is no mistaking it with the raised ridge on its spine so obvious. I wonder what it would look like after a fresh shed.. :crazyeyes:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 6:04 pm 
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TNWJackson wrote:
Very cool Hans, a great find and I'm very impressed with your patience. As you know, there are plenty of deaths on record for Bungarus so they certainly do bite in defence from time to time (and I have seen flaviceps have a good chew on a snake bag so they can't be all that reluctant!).

John - according to LD50 testing in rodents flaviceps is considerably more toxic than fasciatus.


How about multicinctus? ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 6:15 pm 
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I love the iridescence on the scales! Nice find, Hans.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 16th, 2012, 7:13 pm 
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MaartenSFS wrote:
TNWJackson wrote:
John - according to LD50 testing in rodents flaviceps is considerably more toxic than fasciatus.


How about multicinctus? ;)


Oops, multicinctus is the species I meant to query, not fasciatus... :oops: - multicinctus was Joe Slowinski's undoing, right?

Whatever the case Hans, yours is a beautiful specimen!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 12:13 am 
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MaartenSFS wrote:
How about multicinctus? ;)


Unfortunately I'm unable to locate any studies in which the lethality of both flaviceps and multicinctus were tested, but by comparing the overlapping results of a couple of studies it looks as though flaviceps and multicinctus venoms are similarly toxic in rodents.

My comparison went as follows. The following paper suggests that B. candidus is slightly more toxic than B. flaviceps:

Chanhome L, Wongtongkam N, Khow O, Pakmanee N, Omori-Satoh T, Sitprija V: Genus specific neutralization of Bungarus snake venoms by Thai Red Cross banded krait antivenom. J Nat Toxins 1999, 8:135-140.

Whereas the following study suggests that B. candidus is slightly more toxic than B. multicinctus:

NGET-HONG TAN and GNANAJOTHY PONNUDURAI: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE BIOLOGICAL PROPERTIES OF KRAIT (GENUS BUNGARUS) VENOMS. Camp. Biochem. Physiol. 1990, Vol. 95C, No. I, pp. 105-109.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 2:00 am 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 1:17 am
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The name does not actually relate to the physical appearance of the krait (note the head is not THAT bright red) - it makes reference to its mad behaviour.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 2:53 am 
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John Martin wrote:
MaartenSFS wrote:
TNWJackson wrote:
John - according to LD50 testing in rodents flaviceps is considerably more toxic than fasciatus.


How about multicinctus? ;)


Oops, multicinctus is the species I meant to query, not fasciatus... :oops: - multicinctus was Joe Slowinski's undoing, right?

Whatever the case Hans, yours is a beautiful specimen!


I think you still meant fasciatus for the being much less venomous than flaviceps, but you are right about Joe Slowinski.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 2:54 am 
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TNWJackson wrote:
MaartenSFS wrote:
How about multicinctus? ;)


Unfortunately I'm unable to locate any studies in which the lethality of both flaviceps and multicinctus were tested, but by comparing the overlapping results of a couple of studies it looks as though flaviceps and multicinctus venoms are similarly toxic in rodents.

My comparison went as follows. The following paper suggests that B. candidus is slightly more toxic than B. flaviceps:

Chanhome L, Wongtongkam N, Khow O, Pakmanee N, Omori-Satoh T, Sitprija V: Genus specific neutralization of Bungarus snake venoms by Thai Red Cross banded krait antivenom. J Nat Toxins 1999, 8:135-140.

Whereas the following study suggests that B. candidus is slightly more toxic than B. multicinctus:

NGET-HONG TAN and GNANAJOTHY PONNUDURAI: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE BIOLOGICAL PROPERTIES OF KRAIT (GENUS BUNGARUS) VENOMS. Camp. Biochem. Physiol. 1990, Vol. 95C, No. I, pp. 105-109.


All of which are more venomous than fasciatus??


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 3:14 am 
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MaartenSFS wrote:

All of which are more venomous than fasciatus??


Yep, all are about 20-fold more toxic than fasciatus on average. Remember this is in rodents, which may or may not be informative on relative toxicity for humans and almost certainly isn't informative on relative toxicity to natural prey items. Regardless, I believe there are deaths on record for fasciatus as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 4:24 am 
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Thanks as always for your kind comments!

Quote:
Is this Baluensis ssp or the regular subspecies?

Regular. Baluensis would probably have led to instant cardiac arrest - those are too beautiful! Sadly, I couldn't find any photos on the net. The head is yellow (hence the Latin name, I reckon), the anterior body is black with a white strip alone the spine, and the posterior half is deep red with three or four wide black bands with white blotches on them. But as far as I know, they only occur in Sabah.

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Whereas the following study suggests that B. candidus is slightly more toxic than B. multicinctus

Heresy! Blasphemy! Iconoclasty! I based an entire chapter of my book on the fact that the Many-banded Krait is the baddest (terrestrial) snake outside of Oz!

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Yep, all are about 20-fold more toxic than fasciatus on average.

Does that mean I can now safely play with fasciatus? I find those all the time...


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 1:15 pm 
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Wow. You had me at the first photo. Awesome find Hans!

What does a typical night of road cruising entail? It is usually productive with the same 5 or so species (including frogs and other things seen on the road!), or usually nothing with the occasional common species? These kraits are notoriously hard to find, so really congrats Hans!

-Alex


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 1:47 pm 
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Hey Hans, I think I've found a pic of your baluensis for you. I've attached a link to the actual website vs just the pic (which occurs about halfway down), 'cause there are a lot of cool Bungarus on here!

http://shexieyouhuo.blog.163.com/blog/s ... 273355706/

Uh, reading it may, however, be a bit difficult for most of us. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 1:55 pm 
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Heresy! Blasphemy! Iconoclasty! I based an entire chapter of my book on the fact that the Many-banded Krait is the baddest (terrestrial) snake outside of Oz!


:lol: In the paper referenced above, the average intravenous LD50 (in micrograms per gram) was 0.083 for candidus and 0.0975 for multicinctus, so there isn't much in it.

These sorts of tests are abstracted reality anyway - candidus might be "badder" than multicinctus in intravenously envenomated (via syringe) lab mice in that particular study, but that doesn't shed much light on who is the "baddest" in the real world. Personally, I don't consider any of Australia's snakes to be amongst the baddest anyway - my vote would probably go to saw-scaled or Russell's vipers in terms of badness to humans.

I'm sure your chapter (and the rest of the book) makes for great reading anyway, no matter who is the baddestest (or is that badderer?) of them all (I'm looking forward to reading it :thumb: )


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 17th, 2012, 2:24 pm 
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Excellent snake. Has your son forgiven you for not getting to see this?




Curtis


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 12:16 am 
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Curtis, my son missed this because he went to a two-day birthday party. That should learn him....

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What does a typical night of road cruising entail? It is usually productive with the same 5 or so species (including frogs and other things seen on the road!)

No, it's a total crapshoot. Even under the best conditions, any given night can yield zilch, as I experienced two weeks ago on the very road where I found this krait. It had been raining hard all afternoon, was still drizzling, and the road should have been littered in frogs as usual. But no. We saw, three frogs and no snakes at all, only a mangled little green Boiga somethingsomethingi. Of course, that also happened to be the night I was trying to show Jason Luke and his three friends from the Australian Herpetological Society a good time in Sarawak. Towards the end of the drive, I got sicker and sicker with a virus and couldn't even drive them back to their hotel, unloading them onto a taxi instead.

So yeah, enough material for an entire country album there. Only without bad whiskey and bleach-blonde wimmens....


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 12:54 am 
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Yep, all are about 20-fold more toxic than fasciatus on average.

Does that mean I can now safely play with fasciatus? I find those all the time...[/quote]

You have my blessing to now juggle B. fasciatus in classrooms around your area. Make sure it's a hands-on experience. :lol: ;)

Seriously, though.. do you have a plan in place in case you get bitten? I don't and have no ideas who to even contact here. As I have yet to find a living venomous species I haven't been too worried about it.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 2:14 am 
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You have my blessing to now juggle B. fasciatus in classrooms around your area. Make sure it's a hands-on experience.

LOL, good one!

Quote:
do you have a plan in place in case you get bitten?

No. Just do what I teach in the above-mentioned classrooms - seek medical attention as soon as you can, but DO NOT HURRY. Apart from that, I just try not to get bitten, mostly by neither touching not transporting hots.

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As I have yet to find a living venomous species

Eh? Seriously? What venomous species are there in your neck of the 森林?


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 3:48 am 
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This is a picture of Bungarus flaviceps baluensis, courtesy of Björn Lardner (Lardman). He's having difficulties posting it, so he sent it to me to post it.

What an awesome animal:

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 5:17 am 

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Your story telling is superb, Hans! These photos are great. What a beautiful snake! If it weren't for the venom I bet they would have become popular in the pet trade.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 3:50 pm 
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Wow, that baluensis is stunning.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 4:28 pm 
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Gorgeous snake, Hans. Reminds me of Racers on a hook :D

David and Suzanne


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 5:53 pm 
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Quote:
You have my blessing to now juggle B. fasciatus in classrooms around your area. Make sure it's a hands-on experience.

LOL, good one!

Quote:
do you have a plan in place in case you get bitten?

No. Just do what I teach in the above-mentioned classrooms - seek medical attention as soon as you can, but DO NOT HURRY. Apart from that, I just try not to get bitten, mostly by neither touching not transporting hots.

Quote:
As I have yet to find a living venomous species

Eh? Seriously? What venomous species are there in your neck of the 森林?


I laughed out loud at the 森林. Sounded so out-of-place in that Americanism. :P

Do you know where to call/go if you are bitten? I don't even know if they have antivenin in my city. =P I don't think the government here cares if peasants die and city people wouldn't get bitten.

In Guangxi we have:
Macropisthodon rudis (known fatalities)
Rhabdophis leonardi
Rhabdophis nuchalis
Rhabdophis subminiatus
Rhabdophis tigrinus (known fatalities)

Bungarus fasciatus
Bungarus multicinctus

Naja atra

Ophiophagus hannah

Sinomicrurus kelloggi
Sinomicrurus macclellandi

Azemiops feae

Deinagkistrodon acutus

Ovophis monticola

Protobothrops jerdonii
Protobothrops mucrosquamatus

Trimeresurus albolabris
Trimeresurus stejnegeri

Vipera russellii

And in the sea:
Hydrophis cyanocinctus
Hydrophis fasciatus
Hydrophis gracilis
Hydrophis ornatus

Lapemis curtus

Praescutata viperina

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of those I have found (DOR):
Macropisthodon rudis

Bungarus multicinctus (quite common as well)

Naja atra (also seen sold at a restaurant in a tourist spot near the city)

Sinomicrurus macclellandi

Deinagkistrodon acutus (a farmer was selling one in a village next to Huaping National Level Nature Reserve)

Protobothrops mucrosquamatus (too many to count)

Trimeresurus albolabris


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 5:56 pm 
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
This is a picture of Bungarus flaviceps baluensis, courtesy of Björn Lardner (Lardman). He's having difficulties posting it, so he sent it to me to post it.

What an awesome animal:

Image


Shit, how can that be topped?

How many hours do you spend traveling from your home to your favourite herping spots, Hans?


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 18th, 2012, 8:30 pm 
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Shit, how can that be topped?

Easy: eighteen-foot King Cobra.

Quote:
How many hours do you spend traveling from your home to your favourite herping spots, Hans?

Between five and forty minutes for most of them. My favorite cruising road (where I found this krait) is an hour away, though. But on the way there one also can chance upon crossing snakes, so that makes it a twelve-minute drive before I hit the bush proper.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 19th, 2012, 1:31 am 
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Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Quote:
Shit, how can that be topped?

Easy: eighteen-foot King Cobra.

Quote:
How many hours do you spend traveling from your home to your favourite herping spots, Hans?

Between five and forty minutes for most of them. My favorite cruising road (where I found this krait) is an hour away, though. But on the way there one also can chance upon crossing snakes, so that makes it a twelve-minute drive before I hit the bush proper.


O, you lucky bastard. The closest place I've got is about 20 minutes away, my project area 1.5 hours, and Huaping National Nature Reserve 2.5 hours, all by motorcycle. =S

I meant what kind of krait could top that..? :roll:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 29th, 2012, 9:54 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:39 pm
Posts: 380
Location: Concord TWP, Ohio
Hans, that Bungarus has to be one of THE most awesome snakes I've seen posted on this forum! Outstanding!!! (That baluensis would be a mind-blower for sure!)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 29th, 2012, 3:36 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thank you, Mr. D.!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 29th, 2012, 8:04 pm 
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Joined: February 6th, 2012, 7:24 pm
Posts: 111
One of the worst bites in the world is from Crotalus viridis helleri, the Southern Pacific rattler.

The venom isn't world class in terms of potency, but the idiots at Crofab have never worked this sub species into their antivenin mixture.

Hence, the antivenin that most west coast hospitals use (Crofab) is wholly ineffective in treating the bites of the most common rattler in the area.

Patients end up going thru 10 times as many vials of serum and get almost no "cure" in return for their $100,000.00 PLUS spent on the serum.

Crofab makes out like a bandit by selling 10 times the number of vials of serum and the patient goes thru a near death experience.

I would like to see a class action suit brought against this company.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 30th, 2012, 7:56 am 
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Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm
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Location: San Francisco, California
So intimate and spectacular, what you share.

and yeah . . I keep looking at those nostrils


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #34: Bungarus flaviceps (Red-headed Kr
PostPosted: April 30th, 2012, 8:13 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thank you, Kelly! Incidentally, I cruised that same road for two hours tonight, hopes all up, and found....one frog (ONE!), and one freshly mangled Naja sumatrana. Sighhhhh....the irony of it all.


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