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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sundews
PostPosted: May 9th, 2012, 1:53 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 2938
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Once upon a time in the not too distant past, there was the Short Python, aka Blood Python, aka Python curtus. Then a splitter came along and hacked off two subspecies: P. c. breitensteini and P. c. brongersmai. A little later, another, even more zealous splitter passed by and elevated all three to species level. And this is why today we have Python curtus, the Sumatran Short Python, resident of - you guessed it! - Sumatra; Brongersma's Short Python, Python brongersmai, found in Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand, and many of the neighboring countries; and lastly, Python breitensteini, the Bornean Short Python. And it is this beast of which today's tale shall tell.

All Short Pythons are members of the South-East Asian Big Five Herps (that's just a figure of speech, so don't ask what the other four are), and the Bornean species has been at the top of our to-do list since Day One, right up there with the King Cobra. So you can imagine our insane exhilaration when we found a two-footer sitting in the middle of the road last Friday night, at the end of our weekly run in our favorite cruising area. It was late, we were tired, and we also wanted to share the find with a few other folks, so we bagged the thing and took it home.

The next afternoon I had the house to myself and fancied a little photo session with the snake. Very soon I wished I had waited for my son to come back. As I wrote in the teaser post:

I just tried to photograph it at home, and while it's not as crazed as the retics and eventually calmed down, it's an immensely fast snapper for its girth, and my trusty flower-print oven mitt is now in semi-tatters...

Time for Hex Gloves.

I'll shoot another session when my son's back tomorrow. This is not an animal for solo photography.


Despite looking like a larger python species that had been squashed together from both ends by a troll, and now resembled a snake-skinned liverwurst with a tiny shovel head and a ludicrously short tail, this thing was clearly a proud member of the Pythonidae. A few replies later I wrote:

My limited experience with wild retics has taught me that they will have a go at you whenever they feel like it. But with the Short-tail it's not so much the temper. Right off the bat, the snake will sit there and do nothing, just like the pipe snake I posted the other day. The problem is that the breitensteini will snap at you when you to get too close, even when you think the animal is spent and played out, and these attacks are very fast and sudden. What's more, they feel even more fast and sudden because the snake's mass lulls you into thinking it's a slow animal. From all I've read online so far, P. breitensteini does not display the typical aggression you find in other python species....but it is a python still.

Trying to feed it a frozen/thawed mouse ended with the mouse meeting a similar fate as my oven mitts within seconds, but without actually being eaten. Clearly, banana leaves on the dining table were not the setting for a photo session with this animal, so I started looking for a nice lawn to shoot it. Sadly, "nice lawn" and "Borneo" are mutually exclusive terms. In this climate, everything grows so fast and tall that the City of Kuching employs an army of weed whackers to keep the roadside grass at an acceptable level, and my backyard needs trimming every two weeks (which the neighbors kindly remind me of by shooting me ugly looks pertaining to the two-foot high bushland behind my house).

But my lawn hadn't had a visit from the gardener in ten days. There are lawns in public parks, of course, and they would seem like a great option. Large areas, short grass, tree shade. And some of those lawns are even dry (most are swampy, thanks to the clayish soil and the regular heavy rains). But there are also people. And some of them do not relish the idea of some sweaty bignose wrangling large serpents in their close vicinity while they're on their morning walk/run/hobble. And some of them might call law enforcement - if not for abuse of a potentially protected animal, then at least for public indecency.

That leaves soccer and field hockey pitches. But those are all private and therefore fenced in. In short, in the whole of Borneo you cannot find a single flat place with short grass to photograph snakes in peace...or so I thought until this morning when I drove my son to school. Less than half a mile from our house there is a huge, three-football-fields-sized lawn open to the public. No houses around, no people, no passers-by. I had never paid attention to that patch, but now I did, and I took the python there to see if the ground was dry enough to leave the rubber boots at home.

The ground looked fine. There were some swampy patches, but about half of the area was nice and dry. The grass hadn't been maintained in ages, so there was a patchwork pattern of moss, raw earth, grass, and low plants. The perfect background for shooting creeping animals.

But there was something else. After I had walked twenty yards on the pitch, I started to notice a mess of dime-sized red plantlets on the ground all around me. Scarlet they were, and sparkling like tiny chandeliers. I bent down to take a closer look, and almost fell on my ass in surprise: I was standing in an ocean of sundews (Drosera burmannii), the plants growing so closely that I squished a dozen of them wherever I set my foot. Some of you might know that before I fell ill with serpentitis, I used to have another sickness, growing carnivorous plants. I specialized in Nepenthes, but I had a few tropical sundews as well. Many a rainy winter day in Taiwan was spent macro-ing the little gem-studded plants and their prey sticking to the glue droplets. Borneo is home to only four sundew spieces, and I had only seen one of them (Drosera spathulata, a trash species found everywhere on the planet but McMurdo Station), and that had been in 2007. I had not seen any sundews since we moved to Sarawak last year....and now I was surrounded by thousands of them!

I've seen a lot of very impressive Nepenthes here so far, but none of them made such a deep impression on me as this sea of sundews did, sitting as it did on a dilapidated soccer field in the middle of Kuching. I was indeed very close to tears of joy, I'm embarrassed to report :-)

But the ruthless efficiency of my always goal-oriented German mind (yeah, right) soon brought me back to reality: I had a mission to fulfill and a python to photograph. Hey - why not in the middle of all these sundews? The snake and the light (overcast, but still squinty) didn't cooperate sufficiently to get a shot of the snake laying its head right between a clump of 'dews. But at any rate - even if you can't see them well, the pink little dots you're about to find on almost every photo almost made me cry, and it's the thought that counts :-)


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Something wrong with the alignment of his lower jaw?
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Heading for the hills...
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Now for the shiny stuff:
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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 9th, 2012, 4:11 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:42 am
Posts: 188
Nice snake, and very cute little Drosera. I wasn't aware D. burmanni was there but I guess I shouldn't be surprised.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 9th, 2012, 6:55 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:08 pm
Posts: 542
Location: Montana
Hans, that Python is ridiculously stout, I'll bet it packs a punch when it strikes.
Interesting post, once again. The sundews were a nice added bonus.

-Dell


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 9th, 2012, 7:49 am 
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Joined: February 6th, 2011, 9:09 pm
Posts: 464
Location: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
Had the python just fed??? Those sundews are very cool. Could you direct me to some sources for information about carnivorous plants in China, per chance? I found out after a previous Nepenthes post long ago that one species ranges into China, but I can't seem to find any information on it. I also have another obsession, as well - invertebrates - so you don't need to be ashamed. And I'm not even German. :P


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 9th, 2012, 10:06 am 
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Joined: June 10th, 2010, 7:37 pm
Posts: 1333
Location: San Francisco, CA
And to think I had traded so many different South African Drosera back in the day for brumanni many years ago haha! I'd kill to check out that field of Drosera.

Excellent Python!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 9th, 2012, 4:47 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 2938
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks for the kind replies!

No, the python hadn't just fed, they always look like that.

Quote:
I'd kill to check out that field of Drosera.

I know the feeling. burmannii were always my favorite, they're so stout and cute.

Maarten, I don't know of any current sources on carnivorous plants in China. But you'll get a lot of hits if you google 食虫植物.

Here's a Chinese enthusiast site, and here's a useful-looking link on Hudong.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 9th, 2012, 5:07 pm 
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Joined: February 6th, 2011, 9:09 pm
Posts: 464
Location: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
O, that website was very useful. I ended up finding "all" of the species in under a minute: http://www.carnivorousplants.org/cpdb/SearchCPdb.php . The other day I found a purseweb spider tube with no spider that has gotten me very excited. Here's to our non-herp-related obsessions! :beer:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 9th, 2012, 10:14 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm
Posts: 389
Location: Ohio, then Arizona, now South Australia
Really interesting animals, and one that I've NEVER had any interest in keeping... :lol: I tended a friend's collection for a year and he had a couple of 4+ footers (not sure of the species). When they hit an adult rabbit I thought they were going to drive it right through the side of the (substantial) cage material. Holy hell, I never, ever, want to experience a bite from one of those, especially a large one. And yes, your specimen does look like it has a bit of a lower jaw problem - wonder what's up with that? As always, nice pics and narrative. Any idea as to the sex?


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 10th, 2012, 12:05 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 2938
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thank you, John, that's interesting! As to the sex....I had serious problems bagging the damn thing, and you want me to sex it? :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 10th, 2012, 12:41 am 
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Joined: January 30th, 2012, 11:15 pm
Posts: 74
Location: UK
Dell Despain wrote:
Hans, that Python is ridiculously stout


You should see them when they're gravid!

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Great find Hans. Having kept and bred this species for a number of years, I would love to find one in the wild. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful finding any on all of my trips to Borneo, so I hope luck is on my side this year.

Thanks,

Tom


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 10th, 2012, 5:11 am 

Joined: April 23rd, 2011, 6:49 pm
Posts: 248
I would have been just as excited about those Sundews as you! I absolutely love finding the several Drosera, Sarracenia and Pinguicula species found in North Florida.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 10th, 2012, 7:18 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Quote:
You should see them when they're gravid!

That is...obscene!!!

Reptiluvr, there are also three species of Utricularia (bladderworts) growing amid those droseras. I'll take some pix once I find my microscope :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 10th, 2012, 8:55 am 
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Joined: March 18th, 2012, 6:34 pm
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Location: Huffman (NE Houston), Texas
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
Quote:
You should see them when they're gravid!

That is...obscene!!!

Reptiluvr, there are also three species of Utricularia (bladderworts) growing amid those droseras. I'll take some pix once I find my microscope :-)


I see the little bladderwort leaves.

Great pictures, lovely snake and very lovely sundews! I just recently stumbled upon an unknown population of Utricularia inflata here locally.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 11th, 2012, 1:24 am 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
Posts: 552
Excellent, Hans. It was great to see these and read one of alway entertaining posts. I am yet to see these.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 18th, 2012, 4:29 pm 

Joined: March 7th, 2012, 10:35 pm
Posts: 34
I found half a blood python floating on the Kinabatangan in April, freshly cut in half, opposite a Palm Plantation... I met a guide who saw two alive Blood Pythons the day before at that plantation.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 18th, 2012, 6:46 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
I wonder why they didn't eat it....On the road I took you guys cruising on in April I've now encountered three times other slow-driving, flashlight-wielding road hunters. Only they're not looking for stuff to photograph, they're looking to kill and eat. Sadly, they don't go about it wisely - as a friend of mine put it, "the Sarawak natives are addicted to hunting, to such a degree that they first kill whatever they see, and then figure out what to do with it."


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: May 19th, 2012, 1:20 am 
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Joined: June 15th, 2010, 9:42 am
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Location: Sweden
Thanks Hans! I think those are the first actual field pics I have ever seen of that species.

Sincerely Magnus


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: November 28th, 2013, 4:38 am 

Joined: October 15th, 2013, 2:17 am
Posts: 5
Nice find!
Anyway, I'm planning for a herping trip at Miri, Sarawak, my home town.
May I ask, what sort of habitat will I be most likely to find a blood python?
I have a plan to venture into oil palm plantation hoping to find one but can you share your experience with me?
Do drop me a PM so we can discuss further. =)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #37: Bornean Short-tailed Python + Sun
PostPosted: November 28th, 2013, 4:49 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 2938
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Hi Terrence,

I've found them in disturbed areas, inside villages, on highways - anywhere but in proper forest :-)


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