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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 14th, 2012, 6:01 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 2940
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Veni. Vidi. Viper. Don't want to sound arrogant here, but at the rate I'm knocking off the hard-to-find species (just added a Sunda Pangolin to my mammal list last Thursday), it'll be just a matter of time until I find a frickin' Aptenodytes forsteri crossing one of these mountain roads in full battle rattle. So much for my recent bellyachin' about herping in the tropics :-)

Trimeresurus borneensis, the Bornean Leaf-nosed Viper (aka Bornean Palm Pitviper or Bornean Pitviper, depending whose books you read), is the only non-green viper around these parts, which explains why I seriously considered an acid flashback - two decades delayed - when the snake appeared in my headlights. Mottled-brown pitvipers with a mien like Eastwood's Man With No Name right before the big gunfight were a daily occurrence during my Taiwan herping days - only those were usually bigger and were called Protobothrops mucrosquamatus, the Taiwan Habu. That snake is as abundant in Taiwan as green vipers (Tropidolaemus wagleri and T.subanullatus) are here. But the only brown viper here, the leaf nose, was pretty much the stuff of campfire legends and therefore outside my herpetological knowledge scope for Sarawak. In fact, most of my locally born & bred friends here have never seen a T. borneensis, and now I had one on my hook! Whew! That was an even fiercer rush than the fried noodles I had just tried to eat ten minutes earlier at a tiny village cafe. In my naivete I had implored the Malay proprietress to make the dish extra pedas (spicy), please, because I like spicy, and Sarawakians as a rule don't cook with a lot of chilis. Well, said proprietress obviously didn't either, because she went totally weapons-grade with the little green bird's eye chilis, and the very first bite threatened to blow my brains straight out through all available cranial orifices.

And not long after this fearsome experience, still teary-eyed and runny-nosed, this little beauty got my pulse racing and my palms sweaty all over again. I didn't know what I had found, so my first move was to cover the snake with my bush hat, walk back to the car, and get out Indraneil Das' "Snakes And Other Reptiles Of Borneo". The only non-green Sarawakian viper in that book was T. borneensis, but the picture showed a saffron-yellow snake, so that couldn't be it. The one on the road before me was mostly brown. Maybe it was some kind of juvenile form of the Tropidolaemus gang. That seemed unlikely, though, I'd never heard of that. Calling my fellow Kuchingite Indraneil Das in person was also no option - as much as he loves to answer inane amateur herper calls from the field ("No, I think it's a mudsnake, Hans. Not a rare King Cobra morph. Yes, really. So sorry."), at 2300 hours he was surely either fast asleep or busy pillow-fighting his energetic young son. So my only choice was to shoot first and ask questions later.

The ensuing shoot was hampered by a very odd phenomenon: the ^%$#@! snake wouldn't stay on the ^%$#@! hook!! This was a pitviper, for crying out loud! By rights, it should have taken to the hook like a fish to water, what with its arboreal propensities! But no dice. The bastard kept sliding off the tool like some sort of arrow-headed krait, and I seriously thought it might be brain-damaged, until I got to the "ask questions later" part the next day, when consultation of a few more field guides solved the ID riddle and also taught me that snake is entirely terrestrial. This handicap was also the reason why I didn't dare to change to my 100mm macro - the beast was constantly on the move, and I didn't want to trigger any fang action with my shutter finger three inches from its heat sensors, something that's usually rather unproblematic with stationary vipers....

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Last edited by Hans Breuer (twoton) on May 14th, 2012, 3:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 14th, 2012, 6:29 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 3:39 pm
Posts: 378
Location: Concord TWP, Ohio
Way to go Hans! VERY nice animal. I love that 3rd, head-on shot...killer!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 14th, 2012, 1:00 pm 
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Joined: January 8th, 2011, 5:51 am
Posts: 380
Location: NY
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
("No, I think it's a mudsnake, Hans. Not a rare King Cobra morph. Yes, really. So sorry.")


HAHA :lol:

Congrats on a very cool find though! So great to have that kind of diversity around you!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 14th, 2012, 4:58 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:40 pm
Posts: 339
And now you know that when making a book that covers every single reptile of SE Asia, quality sometimes gets sacrificed. A lot of his drawings are a bit different than in real life, but still it's the best broad guide of the region and can always get you started on your ID course.

This, Hans, is incredible. Absolutely awesome, infrequently seen and hugely convergent snake (Ovophis, Protobothrops and all sorts of other snakes come to mind, but no, this is Trimeresurus). And a short-tailed python? You're living the dream sir. You really are :thumb: :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 14th, 2012, 5:07 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 2940
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks, guys! Yeah, I guess I got lucky. Apart from two rather common DOR species (Xenochrophis trianguligeris and Gonyosoma oxycephalus), it was the only snake I saw in five hours, even though it had been raining all afternoon, so I should have seen more. But I ain't complaining :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 14th, 2012, 6:52 pm 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 1:17 am
Posts: 136
Dear Hans,

May I kindly request that you stop posting on fieldherpforum? Your posts are making me so envious; sometimes I don't even know whether I want to view them or not.

Kind regards,

- David




:shock: AWESOME


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 14th, 2012, 11:42 pm 
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Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 9:48 pm
Posts: 277
Very nice find Mr. Breuer! The P. breitensteini was great too - tried to post on that one but my internet chose that precise moment to have a fit of non-connectivity.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 15th, 2012, 1:00 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 2940
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Quote:
May I kindly request that you stop posting on fieldherpforum?

Sorry, can't. The voices in my head are telling me that posting here is the first step for me towards world dominance.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 15th, 2012, 5:48 am 
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Joined: March 22nd, 2012, 6:19 pm
Posts: 371
Location: The Dark Side of the Moon
Awesome find Hans, what a beautiful Pit-Viper.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 17th, 2012, 5:30 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:40 pm
Posts: 339
Gonyosoma is common out there?


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 17th, 2012, 7:17 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 2940
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Yes, dirt-common. At least the flat, dry variety we keep finding on the roads :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #38: Bornean Leaf-nosed Pitviper
PostPosted: May 17th, 2012, 7:41 pm 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
Posts: 552
Wow, fantastic as usual, Hans. You are coming up with so many interesting species in Sarawak.

Looks like this one would be very hard to pick out in the leaf litter. I could imagine it curled up in the leaves at the base of one of those big buttressed trees.

Good luck finding more. I hope that you work out the habits of the species since I would like you to show me one on my next visit. ;)


Regards,
David


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