China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

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Kevin Messenger
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China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by Kevin Messenger » December 7th, 2013, 1:31 am

A link to the previous post, #58, herping Beijing and Shennongjia: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=18116

12 July to 19 July 2013
Just sitting in Nanjing…

20 July 2013
Well I was originally supposed to head to Wuyishan right now, but due to this paperwork (getting a residency card for China) I’m having to stay in Nanjing until the 24th… Quite annoying. Dan left as scheduled, and flew from Hong Kong, to Xiamen, and then into Wuyishan. But due to his late arrival, he stayed the night in Wuyishan (the town).

21 July 2013
Dan headed to Wuyishan the reserve today. Tons of rain all day long. He wasn’t too excited about it. He got a ride with Xie Pong (the friend we met in June when I was there with Justin). He wasn’t terribly hopeful as the entire day was pouring rain. In June, when Justin and I were there, it rained almost every day, but usually just for an hour or two.

Dan and Xie Pong hired a car for the evening and rode up to the top of the GuaDun road and walked down. They didn’t see much of anything, just some frogs.

22 July 2013
Sitting in Nanjing. I coached Dan the sites I would herp, and what I would have been doing had I been there. I told him about the west road and how lucky I was there. I told him if he hit that up, he’s bound to find something.

Dan walked up the road, turned around, walked back. Nothing. It was close to 9:30pm. He said they were going to head into the small town behind the hotel and get some noodles pretty soon before the closed.

But before that could happen, I get another text.

Dan: “coral!!”
Me: “no way!! You’re gonna do another lap right?”
Dan had just gotten to the bottom of the road. He had walked all the way up, and almost all the way down without a snake, and then at the base of the road, he found the first snake of the night, a beautiful, young, Kellogg’s brand coral snake (Sinomicrurus kelloggii)
Dan: “of course! We’re gonna walk all the way up again.”

I sat back, working on papers. Then another text from Dan…
Dan: “mandarin rat!”
Me: “geeze… you’re so lucky. You’re killing it.”

Perhaps another 15 mins pass. Text from Dan..
Dan: “another Mandarin rat!”
Me: “dammit…. This is not fair.”

Dan: “DOR Pareas. Haven’t seen anything in a while now. We’re gonna drive up to the small town and hope a store is still open so I can at least buy some instant noodles.”
Me: “alright… well you did incredibly awesome tonight.”

I figured that was going to be the end of it. Maybe another 15 mins passed before I got another text from Dan.

Dan: “you’re gonna want to kill me. Guess what we just found?”
Me: “jesus… I have no idea, either a third mandarin rat, or a second coral??”
Dan: [sends a cell phone shot]
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I was floored….

“where was it?!?”

Dan: “on the road, right behind the hotel. Basically on that tiny stretch between the hotel and the noodle shop”

- Justin and I had walked this little stretch close to 6 times a day, at least twice every night. Not to mention it was NOT quality habitat in the least!!


23 July 2013
Dan hiked the west road again tonight. I was still stuck in Nanjing. I get a text from Dan that night….

Dan: “got another coral!”
Me: “askagakglsfhlfhsjhsshizvfiohd” (well okay, I didn’t say those words – that’s keyboard type for “frustration”). You gotta be kidding… that is incredibly crazy. Two mandarins, two corals, a sharp-nose viper, all of this after 2 days of effort (granted 1 night of city life, 1 unsuccessful night). You’ve hit all three of the primary targets already!”

Dan: “yep, I could go home already and be completely happy, but who knows what the coming days might yield.”

Dan and Xie Pong ended up finding a live Pareas before the night was up.
[photos of the animal from a later time]

Pareas chinensis – Chinese slug-eater
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Dan photographing the little guy:
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24 July 2013
I woke up, went straight to the office to get my passport, got my residency card (unlimited entry into China from now until August 2015, pretty awesome, but still not worth missing out on those specimens Dan found. Right after I headed to the train station and boarded the train around noon. I would arrive in Wuyishan tomorrow at 4am… ugh. Just one more day.

Later that night on the train, I got my standard texts from Dan.

Dan: “not too much tonight. A green tree viper, DOR Dinodon flavozonatum, and a DOR greater green snake. I decided to walk the south road tonight, because I figured you’d want to hike the west road when you get here.”

25 July 2013
I finally arrived at Wuyishan. As before, around 4am. Xie Pong met me at the train station. He said we’d have to wait until about 7am for a taxi into the reserve. So we took a nap at his hotel. We got up at 7 and walked outside and waited for the taxi. The drive in didn’t yield any new DORs. I arrived around 9am, got my room situated, and went to say hey to Dan, whom I hadn’t seen in a year.

I’ve had some luck with making international contacts via the internet. I met Scott in Beijing via this forum – from my China posts. Since that time, Scott has become a tremendous friend, and I always have a great time when I’m around him. I also met Dan in 2011, via the internet (Flickr). Somehow I mentioned going to China in 2011, and he recommended I swing through Hong Kong and he’d take me herping. Since 2011, I’ve crashed on Dan’s couch for many nights, and he’s shown me some marvelous sights in Hong Kong. Through Dan, I met Kevin C., who also lives in Hong Kong. Through the two of these guys, I traveled with them to Taiwan where I met Bill Murphy and had an incredible herp adventure there in Taiwan during the summer of 2012.

Currently I was finally in a position where I could thank Dan and repay the favor of all of the couch surfing I’ve done. I mentioned before that Wuyishan is off limits to foreigners. Well, after my two trips from earlier this year, I now had connections, and the people I knew had connections. So we submitted some paperwork (still gotta go through that though), and we got Dan permission to enter the reserve.

So I hadn’t seen Dan since late September 2012 when I was in Hong Kong, having just returned from a trip to Thailand, it was nice to join him on another herp adventure. It sucked this adventure was already cut in half (at least my portion, Dan still got the whole 10 days in).

I eyed his captures that he’s had thus far, marveled at the sharp-nose, at how beautiful the mandarins were, and at how awesome the corals were. The corals were quite interesting.

Last year I found a Kellogg’s coral on Hainan Island (a fairly large adult):
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And these Kellogg’s corals didn’t look quite the same. Maybe it’s just because they were smaller. They almost looked like a mix between kelloggi and macclellandi.

Here’s a shot of a Macclelland’s from Hainan Island:
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One from Hong Kong:
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Macclelland’s from Taiwan (different subspecies over there):
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And the kelloggii from Wuyishan:
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Oh well. We hit the little town for some lunch. My little trusty shop didn’t have noodles for lunch, so we diversified. That was typical. For the most part noodles are a breakfast thing, most Chinese don’t eat noodles for lunch, and so the shop keep tended to sell out of noodles and by lunch time, no longer had any. Dan had been pleased with another place further up the road (Justin and I ate there once, when those girls had invited us to lunch). So we headed up there. We ordered some dumplings (18 each). They were incredible!! I could easily eat them for every meal (and on some days we ended up doing just that).

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After lunch we went for a walk. I wanted to show him the dilapidated house where Justin and I released the Macropisthodons. We also decided to go ahead and take the sharp-nose viper up there and get some photos.

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These guys are such supremely awesome snakes.

Deinagkistrodon acutus (Sharp-nosed viper/ Chinese moccasin/ hundred pacer):
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They are also extremely photogenic and it’s pretty hard not to take TONS of pics. It’s even harder to narrow a selection down to just a few pics….

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I loved the two-tone coloration change – going from purplish anteriorly to tan as you move posteriorly:
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We were there until close to sunset. We decided to head back before it got too dark, so we could get a bite to eat and then hit the road. On the walk down the trail, I saw a snake gliding across the path. I ran ahead and dove (to the best of my ability considering all the camera gear I was bogged down with). It was an Amphiesma craspedogaster. I had found a DOR back in June with Justin.

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Dan photographing the girl basically at the same spot we found her:
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Random insect:
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After bagging her we got a call from Xie Pong. He said that some of the officers had seen a snake by the office, he wanted us to take a look. So we headed down the road, figuring the snake would be long gone by the time we got there. They said it was in a hole. I asked them to describe it, the color and what not, but they said it was too difficult to see.

We arrived at the building, found where they saw the snake disappear down a hole. I got on my belly with a flashlight and illuminated the hole. It was an Ornate kukri snake (Oligodon ornatus)! Awesome! Justin had found a dead one back in June, now we had a live one. We gingerly coaxed it out with the aid of Dan’s pen hook and showed it off to the officers, whom which were terrified of course.

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Awesome start! And the night hadn’t even began yet. We walked briskly back to town to eat some more dumplings (fast, cheap, and extremely tasty), and prepare ourselves for the night walk.

I wanted to take a “habitat shot” of the sharp-nose viper, where Dan had found it:
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Unfortunately it wasn’t that exciting of a night. Just a Dinodon rufozonatum – not even worth capturing. As Bill so eloquently put it “we don’t stop for Dinos.”


26 July 2013
So I had my thoughts about why Dan had such amazing luck those first two days. I think the massive rain storm he had the day before was critical. Since then, it hadn’t rained at all, and things were slowing down with each passing day. It was super-hot, and things were drying up fast. It had now been 5 days post any rainfall. In the daytime, we mostly worked on photoshoots. We had so many animals we were running out of bags and buckets.

That night we decided to walk different roads. Dan would walk the west road, and I would walk the north road. That way we’d double our chances of finding stuff.

Dan turned up nothing. I found an Opisthotropis latouchii in a small stream adjacent to the road
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followed by a DOR green tree viper (Trimeresurus stejnegeri) and a DOR habu (Protobothrops mucrosquamata). Pretty crappy night…

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Stick insects
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Limnonectes fujianensis tadpole:
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Paa spinosa
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Metamorphing Laptolalax liui:
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When we got back to the hotel, there were some weird caterpillars on the side of the hotel:
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Also some geckos:
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27 July 2013
no snakes… too dry..

For the daytime, we just took pics of captives:
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Much like the sharp-nose, the corals are also hard not to take a bad pic of:

Sinomicrurus kelloggi:
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Dan and I think “panda snake” would be a good nickname for these guys. Super cute heads:
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Seeing as how we’ve walked the northern road, the south road, and the western road several times by now, we decided to hire a car and drove down to the southern research road as a change of pace. Seeing as how there a chance the road could be loaded with snakes…. But, it wasn’t…

Hylarana versabilis:
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Cool waxy, black stalked mushroom:
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however, upon our return to the hotel, we noticed some entomologists had set out some white sheets and some lights in order to catch some insects (most of which were TINY) – they weren’t really interested in any of the large stuff – which of course Dan and I were. We gathered our photo equipment and went to town on their setup. Walking around the sheets, looking at all the cool insects, really made me interested in taking up entomology on the side. At least in China…

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Love his shirt:
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Of course, we wanted to share our scientific pursuits as well:
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Really cool “nose”
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interesting tip/ hairs on the abdomen:
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hymenoptera:
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The ridges on the back of this one were pretty cool:
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Love the “pixelated” look to the wings of this one:
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Praying mantis with a cool head:
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Back to the moths:
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This one gave me the impression of a bat:
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Assassin bug:
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Click-beetle:
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Afterward, went and had some more dumplings.

One of my favorite China beers:
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Green beans:
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28 July 2013
The day started with lunch. I got to try rabbit:

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Okra has recently been introduced to Asia. In the states, I tend to not like it (fried okra is typically the style I see in the US). Dan and I had it in Wuyishan fairly often – not as often as the dumplings, but still often (because it was excellent!):
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We hired a car to take us up to the 2nd bamboo site. I wanted to look for the Xenophrys from June, as well as get some cool, iconic wide angle shots of the Mandarin rats:
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Yet another super photogenic animal (i.e., hard to take a bad pic):
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Specimen #2:
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Female and male:
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The reddish coloration was really cool/ interesting. The only specimens I’ve seen previously found were from Shennongjia in Hubei Province. They are much more grey:
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We hiked the west road tonight, plus a little bit of the GuaDun stretch. We found nothing on the way up. When we turned around, I found a juvenile Opisthotropis kuatunensis (striped stream snake), then once we got to the paved section of the western road, we saw another O. latouchii in the water. We didn’t bother catching or photographing either…

We were releasing the corals that night. When we went to release one of the corals we noticed a DOR on the road. It was another kellogg’s!
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When we got back to the hotel, we were treated to another night of some moth photography (and whatever else showed up – but mostly moths). As I mentioned the night before, photographing all of these guys wanted me to semi take up entomology as a hobby.

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Heart-shaped bug:
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Another one with cool ridges:
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This last moth was really awesome. I had found one in Shennongjia back in 2006. Not only does the moth look awesome, but it’s behavior is really cool as well. Back in 2006, one was on my bed. I noted the crazy abdomen, with the elaborate “hairs” – which obviously looks like something you shouldn’t touch. I got a pencil and touched the moth, it arched it’s abdomen forward like a scorpion and made a “pffffttt!” sound. Definitely not to be touched… So fast forward to 2013, Dan and I walk around the sheets that the entomologists have up, and there’s a few specimens on the sheet. So I got to get some better quality shots:

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29 July 2013
The entomologists hit one of the trails today in the morning. They sent us a text saying they saw a green snake in the brush off the trail. They took some incredibly horrible cell phone shots – so bad that all we could tell is that it was a green snake. The way the shadows fell, it made one of the images look like Elaphe frenata!

1 Trimeresurus stejnegeri, 1 Sinonatrix percarinata

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Afterward, we took the sharp-nose out for some last minute photos before releasing it. I wanted a nice wide angle.
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30 July 2013
We left Wuyishan and headed into town. We’d be catching a plane to Xiamen (about a 45 min flight), from there we’d catch a flight into Hong Kong.

Our flight out of Wuyishan ended up being delayed due to a storm. We hoped the Hong Kong flight would be delayed as well. So far 3 of my flights this year have been delayed – the flight from Shanghai to Japan (2 hours), the flight from Japan to Shanghai (3 hours), and now this flight (1.5 hours).

Well, once we landed in Xiamen, we found out that the Hong Kong flight was scheduled to depart at its original time – meaning we only had about 5 mins to catch the flight. So we were stuck in the airport for about 2 more hours, waiting for the next flight.

31 July 2013
Hong Kong. I only had a few days in Hong Kong this year. On 2 August, I was going to catch a flight to Thailand, where I’d be meeting up with Noel again, and we were going to spend close to two weeks at the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station – the same place that Anne introduced to me the year before (see China post #51, Thailand: http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=15818).

I managed to get a quick herp outing with Kevin C. and Abdel. We met up with some guys from Shenzhen, over in mainland China. One of them knows of a king cobra hibernacula – he sent us some really cool photos. Anyway, he was interested in doing some herping. He was familiar with me due to the CCTV program I did back in 2011 (but it didn’t air until Jan 2012). We didn’t do any conduits because of all the rain Hong Kong had been receiving recently. Instead we decided to hike a mountain trail, one that I had never done before.

Within minutes of hitting the trail I spotted a Futsing Wolf snake (Lycodon futsingensis) in the shrubbery:
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While photographing that, Kevin yells “krait” up ahead of us.
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We ended up seeing two more kraits for the night.
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The mountain trail eventually emptied out on to a very familiar conduit, which was over flowing greatly.
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On the walk to the bus station we saw a bamboo viper (Trimeresurus albolabris) with a massive meal trying to stay above the water (horrible shot with the sx50):
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1 August 2013
Hanging out around town, getting caught up on electronic life (emails, downloading pics, recharging batteries, etc). That night Dan, Kevin and I got dinner at a German restaurant.

A couple of Hong Kong birds from the day:
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2 August 2013
Left Hong Kong, flew to Bangkok (had another plane delay from Hong Kong to Bangkok….)


A link to the next, and final post from the China 2013 trip; Thailand with Noel:

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Scott Lupien
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by Scott Lupien » December 7th, 2013, 3:08 am

Wow, Kevin! This is one of your best yet! So many awesome snakes -- what a story! I really like those red Mandarins. One of these times I will need to get down south while you are there.
Scott

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cbernz
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by cbernz » December 7th, 2013, 7:13 am

Amazing stuff. Glad you discovered the awesomeness of moth-lighting - it's a great hobby, and very cheap and easy to do yourself (and you don't have to be in an exotic country to get exotic-looking bugs, either). It's interesting how many of your specimens look almost exactly like moths I've seen in Costa Rica. That last one with the hairy ass is outrageous, though. I've never seen anything like it. It's like the moth version of a bird of paradise.

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Kevin Messenger
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by Kevin Messenger » December 7th, 2013, 10:14 pm

cbernz wrote:Amazing stuff. Glad you discovered the awesomeness of moth-lighting - it's a great hobby, and very cheap and easy to do yourself (and you don't have to be in an exotic country to get exotic-looking bugs, either). It's interesting how many of your specimens look almost exactly like moths I've seen in Costa Rica. That last one with the hairy ass is outrageous, though. I've never seen anything like it. It's like the moth version of a bird of paradise.
I agree completely. I have really wanted to set up similar things elsewhere just to see what I can find (like Shennongjia for example). And of course have a better photo setup - take my time with it, etc etc. It was a ton of fun. Way more than I was expecting.

Scott, yes of course you need to make it down south one time. You need to come visit me while I'm in Hong Kong, so my friends and I can open your eyes to that amazing situation down there. Hong Kong would be the biggest "bang for your buck" as far as limited days, yet nearly guaranteed snakes

qaz
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by qaz » December 8th, 2013, 6:44 am

Your wide angle shots are fantastic! Such beautiful scenery as well as species.

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LouB747
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by LouB747 » December 9th, 2013, 4:49 am

Unreal

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Jon Wedow
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by Jon Wedow » December 9th, 2013, 8:44 am

Great content as usual Kevin! Those red Mandarin Rats blow the socks off anything I have ever seen in the pet trade and must be one of the most beautiful snakes in the world! Amazing!

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Zach Cava
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by Zach Cava » December 9th, 2013, 7:07 pm

Awesome post, thank for sharing. My favorites are the kukri snake, corals, mandarin rat, and those caterpillars. And some of those moths are just insane!

Matt Cage
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by Matt Cage » December 24th, 2013, 4:14 am

Wow, incredible post!! You have some incredible photography skills! I'm the one who gave Dan that shirt!! Nice to see that he wears it. See you in just over 2 weeks!

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Trey
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by Trey » December 26th, 2013, 5:31 pm

Awesome post, that albolabris was great!

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TravisK
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Re: China post #59, Wuyishan in July with Dan

Post by TravisK » December 27th, 2013, 10:46 am

This is a really Epic thread. It caused many a paused responses while on the phone with a large client... :crazyeyes:

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