The third destination is Zhangmu, the small town that was 5-hour away east from Jilong.
Welcome Sign of Zhangmu
If you are familiar with Asian pit vipers, it was the type locality of Tibetan pit viper, Trimeresurus tibetanus. As crossing the Tibetan Plateau from Lhasa to the south, the vegetation types changed dramatically from grassland and tundra to wood forests. The town sited on the hill of a mountain, surrounded by forests, and the main street, the only street of the town, went back and forth along the hill and finally reached the valley where China bordered Nepal. We arrived in the afternoon and found a nice little hotel at almost the end of the main street.
Overview video of the town from the top of our hotel.
At about 10pm, we first checked the small hill near our hotel.
Himalaya toads, Bufo himalayanus, were mating in the small contemporary water pools on the top of the hill.
Habitat during the day
With high precipitation and warm climate, there were many land leeches in Zhaungmu. After the two-hour searching, all of us got blood on somewhere, either on feet or waist. I wore two pairs of socks but they could not stop the leeches getting their meals….
The next night we found a Trachischium tenuiceps along a muddy mountain road. With its specialized tail (hard pointed tip), it stroked with its tail to defend itself.
A friend of mine got two Trimeresurus tibetanus the year before, but we were not that lucky. After three-day search, we still could not find any Trimeresurus tibetanus, not even a snake shed.
Here was what they got the year before.
As we drove crossing the Plateau to the next stop, Cuona(错那), we got Boulenger lazy toads, Scutiger boulengeri. They hided under rocks on the side of the rivers and sometimes hided beneath the moss pad on the riverbank.
Not much herps at Cuona due to the cold weather. The only thing we got was the Cuona spiny frog, Nanorana conaensis. Since Cuona was the type locality of the frog, it was pretty common in this area. Found in the stream, adult Cuona spiny frogs hided under large rocks during the day while the juveniles usually hided under vegetations. They had great color change as growing from juvenile to adult: the juveniles after metamorphosis were green with dark spots while the adult was dark purple or light gray. We though we got some new species when first caught a juvenile, but later we realized that it was just the color variation between life stages.
We were originally planed to across Medog jungle by foot from Village Pai (or Pai Zhen), but as we got there we were notified that because of the death of 12 tourists due to debris flow four days before we arrived, police blocked the trail from any entrance. So we only stayed at Village Pai for 2 days and collected around the village.
The room we stayed
Mt. Namjagbarwa, the most beautiful snow mountain in China
Cyrtopodion medogensis is the common species in that area. They were easily found under small flat rocks during the day and would forage out at night. We observed many kinds of animals preyed upon on them, including birds, rock agama (new species that wait to be published), and even scorpions, so most individuals we got had re-growing tails and sometimes missing limbs.
Rock Agama new species
Scorpions (unknown species)
Dedicated exclusively to field herping.
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Wow! Kai, that is amazing to see. Thanks for posting!